He is considered National Rugby League Royalty and now he has won the 2023 Dally M medal, Kalyn Ponga has been immortalised in the sport. While his career has led him around the country, few people may realise Ponga is originally from the Pilbara. Born in Port Hedland in 1998, Ponga spent the first few years of his life in Newman where some of his family still resides. Ponga won his maiden Dally M on September 27 after collecting 50 of a possible 72 votes from his final 12 games to pip Shaun Johnson by one point in the overall tally. Fellow Newcastle Knights full-back Tamika Upton won the NRLW Dally M Medal ahead of Sunday’s grand final against Gold Coast. Previous South Hedland cougars coach Natha Swayne said seeing someone who came from Hedland make it to the top of the sport was great for aspiring local athletes. “It’s great for the kids to see someone make it to the top level,” he said. Last week the West Australian reported how Ponga’s season at one stage looked likely to take an entirely different course. He was concussed for the fourth time in 10 months after he was hurt in a front-on tackle against the Tigers in round two, Ponga considered retirement at one point. He sat out five matches and spent time undergoing advanced neurological assessments on his brain, before being cleared to return for the Knights.