STAR signing Luke Lewis has been left out of Cronulla’s 25-man squad to tackle the Knights at Scully Park in Tamworth on Saturday but is still a chance of making his first appearance in Sharks colours.
The 29-year-old former Penrith captain and NSW and Australian utility is recovering from a torn stomach muscle, but a Sharks spokesman said he could be a late inclusion if the injury continues to improve.
Lewis is in the first year of a three-year contract with the Sharks after he parted company with the Panthers in controversial circumstances last season.
Since his debut in 2001, the Blacktown City junior played 208 games for Penrith, including their 2003 grand final victory over the Roosters.
Amid speculation of a falling out with Penrith coach Ivan Cleary, who relieved him of the captaincy duties while he was representing NSW, Lewis announced he was leaving the club. The Sharks beat the Knights and Wests Tigers for his signature.
Lewis has recovered from surgery last year to remove a cancerous lump on his thyroid but has been hindered by a torn oblique muscle suffered during pre-season training.
The Sharks have been bolstered by the off-season arrival of Lewis and his former Panthers teammate Michael Gordon, experienced Wests Tigers pair Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan, and former Bulldogs winger Jonathan Wright.
Gordon, Heighington, Ryan and Wright have been named to play against Newcastle, as has skipper Paul Gallen.
Wright is one of four Knights juniors in the Cronulla squad – the others are bench forwards Anthony Tupou, Mark Taufua and John Morris – and hooker Isaac De Gois played 63 games for the Knights from 2009 to 2011.
Five-eighth Todd Carney is still recovering from a torn Achilles tendon.
The Sharks defeated Manly 24-12 at Brookvale Oval on February8 in their first trial.
Meanwhile, Knights coach Wayne Bennett will decide tomorrow whether to include winger James McManus in the Newcastle team.
McManus was named in a 27-man squad and joined the Knights in Tamworth yesterday after training in Newcastle on Tuesday.
High-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans said McManus would train with the team today and tomorrow, ‘‘then we’ll make a call after that’’.
Hickmans said McManus was the only injury concern for the Knights, who had the day off training yesterday.
Bennett and players including Kurt Gidley, Willie Mason, Jarrod Mullen, Matt Hilder and Jeremy Smith were in Coonabarabran yesterday to visit schools and present a cheque for almost $14,000 to the mayor’s bushfire relief appeal.
The game will kick off at 7.30pm.
Sharks: Michael Gordon, Matthew Wright, Ricky Leutele, Jonathan Wright, Beau Ryan, Chad Townsend, Jeff Robson, Andrew Fifita, Isaac De Gois, Jon Green, Wade Graham, Chris Heighington, Paul Gallen (c). Bench: Anthony Tupou, Mark Taufua, John Morris, Jayson Bukuya, Nathan Gardner, Michael Lichaa, Ben Ross, Tyrone Peachey, Sam Tagataese, Nathan Stapleton, Jake Walsh, Stewart Mills.
Knights (squad): Chris Adams, Darius Boyd, Neville Costigan, Adam Cuthbertson, Adrian Davis, David Fa’alogo, Marvin Filipo, Mitchell Frei, Dane Gagai, Matt Hilder, Chris Houston, Kurt Gidley (c), Willie Mason, Peter Mata’utia, Alex McKinnon, James McManus, Jarrod Mullen, Kevin Naiqama, Anthony Quinn, Tyrone Roberts, Robbie Rochow, Beau Scott, Jeremy Smith, Kade Snowden, Timana Tahu, Zane Tetevano, Aku Uate.