Knights fullbacks claim Dally M Medals

28 September 2023

Written by: Jackson MacDonald

Kalyn Ponga and Tamika Upton took home the top honours for the NRL and NRLW respectively.

Newcastle Knights star Kalyn Ponga was crowned the NRL’s 2023 Dally M medallist last night, beating out New Zealand Warriors halfback Shaun Johnson by just one point.

Ponga collected the maximum six points in Round 26 and despite not playing in the final round he was able to hold on to his lead.

“I feel honoured, humbled and very lucky,” Ponga said accepting the award.

“A lot of people to thank, my family, coaching staff and teammates, without you guys this isn’t possible.”

This award comes after the fullback suffered a career-threatening concussion in Round 2 of this season, his fourth in 10 months, which saw him fly to Canada to see specialists.

“I had an early season holiday and while I was over there [in Canada] I decided I wanted to stop letting people down and start making people proud.”

“I think I came back and did that… what a year.”

Second-placed Johnson came into the night as the favourite after leading his team to a preliminary final appearance, while last year’s winner Nicho Hynes came in forth (48 points), narrowly trailing the ineligible Scott Drinkwater (50).

Fellow Knight Tamika Upton claimed the NRLW’s Dally M Medal over Sydney Rooster’s star Tarryn Aiken, marking the first time players from the same club won both the men’s and women’s top award in the same year.

The Newcastle fullback scored five tries in 10 games, leading them to a 8-1 record and the minor premiership.

“This is definitely not an individual award,” Upton said.

“From the moment I stepped foot there I’ve felt supported from the staff, and everyone involved and that spreads to my teammates. I’m pretty lucky to be surrounded by the most amazing players and people.”

Upton’s 27 points was just enough to defeat Aiken, who finished one point short with 26 points. The Rooster’s five-eighth was instrumental in leading the team to a second-place home-and-away season finish.

Broncos halfback Ali Brigginshaw and Raiders lock Simaima Taufa tied in third place with 22 points.

The three-time premiership player Upton will be looking for a fourth on Sunday as Newcastle plays Gold Coast in the Grand Final on Sunday.

Photo: Ponga scores on Walsh by Fox Sports is available HERE and is used under a Creative Commons license. This image has not been modified.