“It would be pretty gut-wrenching [to be ruled out for the year] but at the same time, I understand it’s my health and that’s a priority. Everyone around me keeps saying that too, all my mates, coaches, family, they keep saying ‘Your health is a priority’. I’ll just be guided by what he says and go from there.
“I have had a couple this year, and that’s the concerning thing. They’ve just been in such a small grouping.”
Ponga’s latest head knock, suffered in a high shot from Sydney Roosters prop Matt Lodge, left him with an “overwhelming feeling of embarrassment”, as though he was “letting my teammates down” despite having no control over the outcome.
It underscores the pressure athletes feel in the highs and lows of rugby league, which have taken Ponga from a man-of-the-match performance in a State of Origin decider to the sideline in a matter of weeks.
“I felt this overwhelming feeling of embarrassment at first. It’s not something you can control and it took me a little bit to understand that,” Ponga said.
“The support has been massive. I’ve had a lot of messages from a lot of people, to be honest. [Melbourne fullback] Ryan Papenhuyzen reached out and said ‘Just look after yourself’. I’ll probably reach out to a couple of people once I get the information from the specialist and go from there.”
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