THE Knights are leaving no stone unturned to ensure Sione Mata’utia is cleared to represent Samoa at the end-of-season World Cup.
Mata’utia missed Newcastle’s last two games of the season after suffering a head knock in the round-24 loss to Melbourne – the third time in 2017 he was taken out of a game after a head-injury assessment.
The 21-year-old flew to Melbourne last week to consult with Professor Paul McCrory, an internationally recognised neurological expert.
“All the prelim stuff is that he’s been cleared to play, but he’s still waiting on the result of a couple of functional tests,” Newcastle’s physical-performance manager, Tony Ayoub, told the Newcastle Herald.
“They take a little bit longer, but we’re hoping to get those results early next week and then we can make a decision on what he’s doing.’’
Mata’utia passed the protocols that would normally have allowed him to play in Newcastle’s last two games of the season, against Canberra and Cronulla.
He was frustrated when the club’s medical staff decided to err on the side of caution and ordered him to stand down.
Samoa’s first game at the World Cup will be against New Zealand on October 28 – nine weeks after Mata’utia’s most recent game.
Meanwhile, Ayoub was hopeful Newcastle forwards Daniel Saifiti and Mitch Barnett, who have both undergone shoulder reconstructions, will be fit to start next season.
“Daniel’s surgery was two weeks ago, and it all went well, and we expect him to be fit for round one,” Ayoub said.
“He’ll have a bit of a limited pre-season until Christmas. Barney is a couple of weeks behind him, but I’m confident he can be ready for that first round.”
* To commemorate the 20-year anniversary of Newcastle’s 1997 premiership, the Mark Hughes Foundation is selling hand-painted prints of the team, autographed by the players involved.
The limited-edition prints are selling for $200, of which 25 per cent will go to the MHF and brain-cancer research.
People wishing to buy can do so via the website markhughesfoundation.com.au.