Newcastle backrower Mitch Barnett. Photo: Getty Images

Newcastle’s Mitch Barnett is close to making a return after a lengthy stint on the sidelines.

The Knights’ backrower has been out of action since the side’s round two clash against the Wests Tigers, during which he suffered a nasty neck injury.

Barnett underwent surgery, which involved fusion on his C5 and 6 vertebraes, just 13 weeks ago.

 “I was hoping to be back a few weeks ago,” he said.

“It’s all bone healing at the moment. I can’t really put a time on it. It’s a bit slower than we would’ve wanted it. I get another scan on Monday week. As soon as I get the all-clear, I’ll be right to come back.”

It’s an injury the Knights are being careful with in a bid to ensure Barnett is at full fitness before heading back onto the field.

“They’re making sure it’s 100% healed before they let me do anything which I’m grateful for,” he said.

“The sooner, the better though.”

While Barnett has been sidelined, the game has seen a host of changes introduced, including the six again rule for ruck infringements.

It’s a rule he has enjoyed watching and is keen to experience himself.

“It’s sped the game up, which I like,” he said.

“The teams that handle it better are probably the teams that have done the hard work with fitness, I guess.

“I like the rule and we’re handling it well, it’s made the game a lot faster and free-flowing.”

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