Andrew Johns says Wayne Bennett is a hypocrite over secret meeting with Kalyn Ponga

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Andrew Johns says Wayne Bennett is a HYPOCRITE who showed ‘poor form’ by having secret meeting with Kalyn Ponga to get him to defect to Dolphins

  • Johns took aim at Bennett over secret meeting on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show 
  • Said Bennett’s efforts to get Ponga to join Dolphins are a ‘distraction’ for player 
  • Pointed out Bennett dropped a player for joining another club in 2001 

Andrew Johns has hit out at Wayne Bennett, accusing the Dolphins coach of double standards and poor form after he reportedly met with Kalyn Ponga in Sydney.

Reports emerged in the Sunday Telegraph that Bennett and other Dolphins officials had flown to Sydney on Saturday to meet with Ponga over his future.

The Newcastle fullback is currently contracted to the Knights until the end of 2024, however the NRL’s official register shows the final two years of that deal are an option in the player’s favour.

Andrew Johns - who currently works with the Newcastle Knights - accused Wayne Bennett of double standards for trying to get Ponga to jump ship in the middle of a season when he benched Justin Hodges for doing the same thing in 2001

Andrew Johns – who currently works with the Newcastle Knights – accused Wayne Bennett of double standards for trying to get Ponga to jump ship in the middle of a season when he benched Justin Hodges for doing the same thing in 2001

Bennett - who will coach the Dolphins when they enter the NRL next year - is chasing Ponga's signature in what would be a huge coup for the club

Bennett – who will coach the Dolphins when they enter the NRL next year – is chasing Ponga’s signature in what would be a huge coup for the club

Ponga therefore looms as the biggest remaining name potentially available on the transfer market for next year and would be a massive coup for a Dolphins club struggling to land big names.

But Johns, who holds a role as a Knights consultant along with being an all-time great at the club, is unimpressed by any mid-season approaches from Bennett.

“It affects them (as players),” Johns said on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show.

“I just think it’s poor form if Wayne flew down to Newcastle to meet with a player, while they are playing that season.

“Kalyn’s carrying a knee injury so you saw he was limited (in a poor showing against Cronulla on Friday night).

“But it would definitely have been a distraction.”

Johns also compared the situation to Justin Hodges’ at Brisbane in 2001, when Bennett dropped him to reserve grade when he signed with the Roosters for the next year.

“He put him on show in front of the team and sacked him and he played reserve grade all year,” Johns said of his former Kangaroos coach.

Ponga (pictured playing the Roosters in round one, 2022) would have been distracted by Bennett's approach, Johns believes

Ponga (pictured playing the Roosters in round one, 2022) would have been distracted by Bennett’s approach, Johns believes

“It’s different when it goes the other way.

“I just think it’s poor form to fly to someone’s home town while they’re still playing, to try to get them to go to their club next next year.”

The situation has also again raised the debate around dedicated transfer windows after a summer of big-name players signing for rivals more than a year out.

The likes of Viliame Kikau, Brandon Smith, Isaiah Papali’i, Reed Mahoney and Apisai Koroisau each entered this season having already secured a deal elsewhere for 2023.

Johns (pictured on Nine's Sunday Footy Show) is not a fan of players being recruited by other teams during the season - something NSW coach Brad Fittler says is an 'awful look' for the NRL

Johns (pictured on Nine’s Sunday Footy Show) is not a fan of players being recruited by other teams during the season – something NSW coach Brad Fittler says is an ‘awful look’ for the NRL 

“It’s just ridiculous,” NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler said.

“It’s an awful, awful look for the game … it’s so negative and you’re going to lose fans.

“We just need a bracket at the end of the year where you do all your trading, that’s it.”

The issue is expected to be a key component of collective bargaining agreement talks this year with the NRL wanting trade windows and the players’ union opposed.

Their greatest fears remain what impact injuries can have on off-contract players’ financial wellbeing as well as greater planning for families in terms of moves.

Standardised welfare and education will likely be front and centre of this year’s negotiations with a feeling the NRL need to offer enough to have the players change their stance.

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