nib Newcastle Knights Captain and fullback Kalyn Ponga has taken out the Danny Buderus Medal as the Knights NRL Player of the Year.
Having overcome significant adversity earlier in the season, Ponga bounced back to lead the Knights charge into the finals and claim a record third Buderus Medal (2018 and 2020 previously).
The fullback amassed 18 appearances in 2023, notching eight tries, 40 goals and 20 try-assists, highlighted by a spectacular run of form in the later rounds.
In a tightly-contested Player of the Year vote, KP edged out Dane Gagai, Tyson Frizell and Leo Thompson who all had incredible seasons in the red and blue.
Ponga spoke after receiving the award on stage from Danny Buderus and Head Coach Adam O’Brien.
“I’m extremely honoured to receive this award,” Ponga said.
“The support of my family, there were some dark days, but I just believed in myself and stuck to what I know. I have a lot of people to thank.
“This is such an enjoyable team to be a part of, we backed ourselves and put ourselves in a great spot.
“I’m standing up here for an individual award but it’s really a team effort.
“We’re going to enjoy the week and do our best. It’s an exciting time of the year.”
The 2023 Awards Night, held at NEX in Newcastle, also saw a host of other awards winners announced.
Tyson Frizell earned the Players’ Player Award from his teammates for another consistent campaign in Newcastle.
Versatile second-row forward Dylan Lucas was awarded the Rookie of the Year after his debut season which included six appearances in the top grade.
After moving to dummy-half this season, Phoenix Crossland was acknowledged for a tremendous 2023 campaign claiming the Gladiator of the Year Award, chosen by the Once a Knights Old Boys.
Jacob Saifiti was awarded the Community Player of the Year Award for his incredible work in the broader community and after being nominated for the Ken Stephen Medal.
Last season’s Rookie of the Year, Leo Thompson took his game to new level in 2023 and collected the Knight in Shining Armour Award for his
Assistant Coach Blake Green was named the Kilpatrick Club Person of the Year.
Dane Gagai and Daniel Saifiti also became life members for the Club for their contributions to the red and blue jersey.
In the lower grades, Adam Clune claimed the NSW Cup Player of the Year Award while Jack Johns was named Players’ Player.
Jack Cullen took home the Jersey Flegg Cup Player of the Year Award and Brock Greacen won Players’ Player.
NRL AWARD WINNERS:
Player of the Year (Danny Buderus Medal) – Kalyn Ponga
NRL Players’ Player – Tyson Frizell
Rookie of the Year – Dylan Lucas
Community Player of the Year – Jacob Saifiti
Knight in Shining Armour – Leo Thompson
Gladiator of the Year – Phoenix Crossland
NSW Cup Players’ Player – Jack Johns
NSW Cup Player of the Year – Adam Clune
Jersey Flegg Players’ Player – Brock Greacen
Jersey Flegg Player of the Year – Jack Cullen
NRL Debut Players – Dylan Lucas (#340), Ryan Rivett (#341), Tom Cant (#342) and Riley Jones (#345)
NRL Milestones – Dane Gagai (250 NRL Games, 150 Knights Games) Daniel Saifiti (150 NRL + Knights Games), Kalyn Ponga (100 NRL + Knights Games), Lachlan Fitzgibbon (100 NRL + Knights Games), Tyson Frizell (50 Knights Games), Phoenix Crossland (50 NRL + Knights Games), Bradman Best (50 NRL + Knights Games), Brodie Jones (50 NRL + Knights Games), Jack Hetherington (50 NRL Games)
Departing Players/Staff – Lachlan Miller, Lachlan Fitzgibbon, Kurt Mann, Hymel Hunt, Bailey Hodgson, Dane Aukafolau, Adam Clune, Dominic Young, Simi Sasagi and Jack Johns.