Knights' Ponga aiming for his best in 2020
Newcastle star Kalyn Ponga still doesn't know where it all went wrong last season, but getting Knights fans back on side is a priority in 2020.
In May, the Knights were in the top four and cruising towards the NRL finals.
By August they stumbled down the ladder and bottomed out in 11th place, missing out for the sixth season in a row.
In the middle, coach Nathan Brown had a messy exit from the club and Ponga made an ill-thought-out comment about a strawberry milkshake.
Loyal Knights fans started to turn.
Not even escaping from the rugby league bubble for a three-week trip to Europe with teammate and close friend Connor Watson brought him clarity.
But it has given him the chance for a fresh start under new coach Adam O'Brien, who wants to help Ponga find a new level in 2020.
"I don't want to (coast). I want to be better, I want to be better for the boys," Ponga told AAP on Wednesday.
"The fans were a bit off us at the end, which is fair I guess.
"They're fans, they're passionate and loyal. They're still awesome. I think in one of our last games it was raining and they still showed up in numbers.
"I definitely know what it's like to be doing well and feel the energy around the place, but I know what it's like at the bottom."
The 21-year-old has been instructed by O'Brien to focus on what he does best, instead of "neglecting what I'm good at to do someone else's talent".
Working to be mentally resilient has also been a theme through the pre-season.
In days gone by, Ponga would sit down with his father Andre and write out his goals for the season, but this year they're clear in his mind.
"We want to be playing finals footy, everyone does. No one goes into a season thinking anything else," Ponga said.
Winning an Origin series is also high on the agenda, as is Kangaroos selection.
"First of all, I want to play Origin again, and if I get the opportunity to play again, I want to win. I won one game last year and felt how good it was," he said.
"So to win a series would be pretty cool.
"There's an Aussie tour at the end of the year and I just want to be in the frame, be in the conversation, whether I'm in the squad or not.
"I just want them to be talking about me."
© AAP 2020