Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien will resist the urge to rush fullback Kalyn Ponga back from his shoulder injury after a horror night for errors in the backline.
The Queensland star will see his surgeon this week as he nears a return from off-season shoulder surgery that ruled him out of State of Origin at the end of last season.
It’s expected the 22-year-old is still at least a fortnight away from returning to the field as the Knights deal with a heavy injury toll to their outside backs.
“He’ll be ready when he’s ready and that’s probably still my answer,” O’Brien said after Sunday’s 24-20 loss to Wests Tigers.
“We’re not going to rush him back based on results.
“We have a plan and the plan is we’ll bring them back when they’re 100 per cent.”
Star centre Bradman Best is expected to spend an extended period on the sidelines with an elbow injury he picked up at training this week, while the Knights are also without Edrick Lee, Starford Toa and Blake Green in the backs.
It forced O’Brien to field a young side in Sunday’s loss including an NRL debut for 19-year-old English centre Dom Young.
Replacement fullback Tex Hoy and Gehamat Shibasaki – who played on the wing despite being a centre – both had unhappy nights under the high ball with six errors between them for 18 overall.
It was the first loss of the season for the Knights and O’Brien was willing to cut the side some slack.
“We’ve got six guys missing and I don’t like talking about that because they’ve been so good our young blokes who are stepping in,” he said.
“But I think if you take six blokes out of any team in this competition, and six out of the starting 13 if we’re really honest, it’s going to hurt and have an effect.
“We’ve had two really good games from those young guys and there was always going to be a game that they turn up and they’re not at their best and unfortunately it was a large contingent of them on the same day.”