Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien will welcome the return of a number of key players for the club’s important clash with the Cronulla Sharks at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday evening.
Following three consecutive losses – to the Wests Tigers (24-20), St George-Illawarra Dragons (22-13) and Gold Coast Titans (42-16), the Hunter-based outfit is determined to return to the winner’s circle.
And, the quest begins on 16 April.
Rampaging centre Bradman Best (elbow), five-eighth Kurt Mann (concussion) and front-rower Jacob Saifiti (suspension) are all back on deck, much to O’Brien’s relief.
The versatile Connor Watson shifts from No. 6 to lock, while Phoenix Crossland has also been named in the 21-man squad following an extended stint on the sidelines.
Cessnock Goannas junior Brayden Musgrove is set to make his NRL debut on the wing, too.
The talented rookie, who won the Newcastle Rugby League (Real NRL) premiership with the Goannas in 2020, will become the 324th player to don a Knights’ first grade jumper.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Bradman back,” O’Brien said.
“Also, we really missed Jacob’s impact off the bench last weekend.
“As for Kurt, being out there with Blake (Green) and Kalyn (Ponga) allows Connor to play his role.
“One guy coming in sort of fixes about three spots.”
The Knights’ rivals, the Sharks, enter the fray following a tumultuous week.
Popular mentor John Morris relinquished his coaching post on Tuesday 13 April, effective immediately, following news Craig Fitzgibbon had signed a three-deal to take over the reins from 2022.
Meanwhile, experienced duo skipper Wade Graham and centre Josh Dugan will miss the showdown after failing HIAs last week at the SCG.
Promising youngster Connor Tracey moves from the bench to the backline while Briton Nikora is back from suspension to fill the hole in the second-row.
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Date: Friday 16 April
Gates open: 4.30pm
1. Kalyn Ponga, 2. Brayden Musgrove, 3. Enari Tuala, 4. Bradman Best, 5. Hymel Hunt, 6. Kurt Mann, 7. Blake Green, 8. David Klemmer, 9. Jayden Brailey (c), 10. Daniel Saifiti (c), 11. Tyson Frizell, 12. Mitch Barnett, 13. Connor Watson. Interchange: 14. Sauaso Sue, 15. Jacob Saifiti, 16. Josh King, 17. Brodie Jones, 18 Simi Sasagi, 19. Pasami Saulo, 20. Phoenix Crossland, 21. Gehamat Shibasaki
1. Will Kennedy, 2. Mawene Hiroti, 3. Connor Tracey, 4. Jesse Ramien, 5. Ronaldo Mulitalo, 6. Matt Moylan, 7. Chad Townsend, 8. Braden Hamlin-Uele, 9. Blayke Brailey, 10. Aaron Woods, 11. Briton Nikora, 12. Teig Wilton, 13. Toby Rudolf. Interchange: 14. Billy Magoulias, 15. Aiden Tolman, 16. Jack Williams, 17. Siosifa Taklakai, 18. Braydon Trindall, 19. Nene Macdonald, 20. Franklin Pele, 21 Jensen Taumoepeau