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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald
Max McKinney

Ponga 'in good spirits' despite suffering second concussion in a fortnight: Croker

Ponga and Croker at Knights training. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Mat Croker is expecting Kalyn Ponga to play it "smart" after suffering his second concussion in a fortnight, but the Knights fullback is in "in good spirits" despite the head knock in Origin II on Sunday.

Queensland fullback Ponga left the field with 10 minutes left to play in the representative match in Perth after being hit high by NSW halfback Nathan Cleary.

It was the 24-year-old Newcastle captain's second concussion in the space of a fortnight, and the fourth time this season he has required a head-injury assessment (HIA).

The category-one concussion has ruled him out of Newcastle's clash with the Gold Coast at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday.

"I'm not so worried, I think he has gotten a little bit unlucky," Croker said on Tuesday.

"But I spoke to him yesterday and I think he was a little more worried about the loss rather than the head knock.

"I don't think they're too bad on him at the moment, but he is in good spirits."

Over the past four seasons, Ponga has undergone a HIA on at least 10 occasions but this is the first time he has not been cleared to play in Newcastle's next match.

He required assessments during Newcastle's losses to Manly on April 7 and Parramatta on April 24, but played out the games.

He then took a huge hit attempting to stop Penrith forward Viliame Kikau from scoring in Newcastle's 42-6 loss to the Panthers on June 12 and was unable to return to the field.

"He puts his body on the line and that's why we love KP," Croker said.

"Sometimes you just get unfortunate, it's a contact sport - it's going to happen.

"But he is in good spirits and he won't rush it. He will be smart about it because it's sort of that one muscle that you can't repair, so I think he will be really smart about this."

Ponga won't play again before the Origin series decider at Suncorp Stadium on July 13. If selected, he would miss Newcastle's match against South Sydney on July 8. That will give him 17 days between games to recover.

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