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Kalyn Ponga is adamant that the arrival of Jackson Hastings is the key to unlocking Newcastle's potential in 2023 as the fullback begins his permanent switch into the number six jersey.

After the 24-year-old skipper floated the idea of a positional switch to coach Adam O’Brien last season, Ponga and Hastings could combine for the first time as early this week in their second Pre-Season Challenge game – giving fans in the Hunter their first look at their club's new six and seven for season 2023.

And after failing to fire in his switch to five-eighth in the first three rounds of 2019, Ponga said he is determined to get his hands on the ball more and help the Knights make inroads this season.

Ponga starts and finishes Newcastle move

“I sat down with Adsy (O'Brien) and a few of the coaching staff and told them I wanted the change to give me the opportunity to grow as a player,” Ponga told the media at pre-season training on Monday.

“I want to be involved in more minutes throughout the game and I think being in that position will do that for me.

“I’ve enjoyed the challenge. That was the exciting part about coming back - that I’d be doing reps at five-eighth."

Jackson Hastings, who was immense for his new side on debut against the Sharks on Friday, is set to wear the No.7 jersey alongside Ponga in the Knights Round 1 clash against the Warriors.

With new recruit Lachie Miller signing with the club to replace Ponga at fullback, the Mackay junior is confident the new strike trio can catapult the Knights into finals contention in 2023.

Match Highlights: Knights v Sharks

“Jacko (Hastings) has been good for me. He’s such a loud, vocal, controlling half which sort of allows me to play free," Ponga said.

“Although we haven’t been able to play a game together, we’ve trained a fair bit and I’m excited to build that combination. I think he’s perfect for what this team needs.

“And you can tell (Lachie) has been in a professional environment for many years with his talk and general awareness of rugby league.

“We’ve had some good conversations, he’s pretty aware of the game plan and how we want to play and I think he’ll fit that model on the field and off the field as well.

"There’s a lot of things in and around the club that we want to get right, especially for myself but if you were to put a metric on it, it would be making the top eight."

A pre-season calf injury sidelined Ponga for Friday’s opening trial, but he is yet to reveal whether fans can expect to see him tested in his new position against Parramatta on Friday.

“I’ve ticked all the boxes in terms of my calf, I’m feeling pretty good. 80 minutes is Round 1 for me definitely.

“I’ll just see what Adsy will want to do with me this weekend.”

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Queensland Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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