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Friday, January 22, 2021

Star duo in doubt for Knights’ opener

Knights stars Kalyn Ponga and Blake Green are racing the clock to be fit for the opening round of the 2021 Telstra Premiership season.

The gifted fullback and experienced playmaker, who recently extended his stay at the Newcastle club, suffered shoulder and knee injuries respectively at the end of an arduous 2020 campaign, with Ponga also ruled out of the State of Origin series.

And, coach Adam O’Brien isn’t optimistic about the duo’s chances of recovery before the showdown against the Canterbury Bulldogs at McDonald Jones Stadium on Friday 12 March.

Ponga underwent a shoulder reconstruction in October, while Green ruptured his ACL in just his third appearance for the Knights in August – all but guaranteeing him six months of rehab.

“Kalyn and Blake will be the two that may miss the start of the year, however I don’t expect it to be a lengthy time at all,” O’Brien told NRL.com last week.

“We’ve had a few other guys who have had surgeries but they’re all on track and come the first or second week of January we should have everyone on deck and training.”

O’Brien admitted he was likely to turn to Tex Hoy and Kurt Mann to replace Ponga and Green.

“If there is one thing I have learned from the season just gone is you need good depth,” he said.

“Not only for injuries but also for form with competition for spots.

“I don’t want to be just handing out jerseys. I want guys chasing after them.

“There will be opportunities for Tex and even Phoenix Crossland, I have no doubt.”

The Knights lost a host of experience in the forward pack over the off-season with the retirements of Tim Glasby and Aidan Guerra, plus the departures of Sione Mata’utia and Herman Ese’ese.