Newcastle coach Nathan Brown hopes a corked thigh won’t keep Mitchell Pearce out of the side to play the Warriors despite the star half missing training on Monday.
A hobbling Pearce didn’t return for the second half of his side’s loss to Wests Tigers on Friday night, continuing the Knights’ wretched run of injuries to key-position players this season.
The experienced halfback has already missed nine games this season with various injuries while halves partner Connor Watson (groin) has missed the last fortnight and fullback Kalyn Ponga is still struggling with ankle soreness.
Brown will name Pearce for Friday’s clash in Auckland but says Watson (groin) will be left off the team sheet in a further injury setback for the rebuilding club.
“We won’t even name Connor this week; not going as good as we’d hoped, unfortunately,” Brown said of his injured five-eighth.
“We still haven’t had a good chance to have a look at that (halves) combination … it’s a bit all over the shop.”
Ponga shapes as an alternative in the halves if Pearce doesn’t prove his fitness but Brown is reluctant to shift his young fullback.
“He (Ponga) could play any number of positions. I think he showed that in Origin when he played in the forwards,” Brown said.“We brought Kalyn here to be our fullback and that’s the reason he came to the club.
“So unless he indicated he was keen for a change I wouldn’t be pushing for a change.”
Ponga said he had no issue with being shifted if necessary but that he was still “learning his craft” in his preferred No.1 jersey.
“I’d do whatever is best for the team,” he said.
“I’m hoping Pearcey plays … but if I get thrown in the halves I don’t mind.”
Another option is Brock Lamb, who Brown conceded was in the mix despite him being out of favour and expected to chase opportunities elsewhere in 2019 after losing his first grade spot this season.
“By all reports he had his best game in a while (on the weekend for Newcastle’s NSW Cup side),” Brown said.
The Knights sit 11th with an 8-12 record and face a tough run home against premiership hopefuls Warriors, Penrith, Cronulla and St George Illawarra.