KNIGHTS co-captain Sione Mata’utia was named on Friday to represent Samoa at the World Cup – before being ruled out because of concern over a series of concussions he suffered.
Newcastle’s physical-performance manager Tony Ayoub confirmed Mata’utia would sit out the tournament but insisted it was “nothing major, just more precautionary”.
The 21-year-old was stood down for Newcastle’s last two games this season after suffering a head knock against Melbourne – his third in the space of a few months.
He also suffered at least two significant concussions in 2016.
Since being ordered to sit out Newcastle’s games against Canberra and Cronulla, Mata’utia has undergone a battery of scans and assessments.
He visited Melbourne recently to consult with leading neurosurgeon Professor Paul McCrory.
Knights officials had been hopeful he would receive the all-clear for the World Cup but it appears the advice they have received is to err on the side of caution.
Newcastle have perhaps more cause than any club to tread carefully in relation to concussions.
Former Knights winger James McManus is suing the club in the Supreme Court over a series of concussions that he claims left him with a “tramatic brain injury” and ended his career.
The Knights were also hit with a $50,000 fine this year for failing to take fullback Brendan Elliot from the field for a head-injury assessment after he was felled by a brutal high tackle against South Sydney.
Mata’utia, who in 2014 became the youngest-ever Kangaroos representative, admitted in August last year: “I have had two major head knocks and the doctors are being very precautionary with myself being so young, and having many knocks when I was younger as well … with Jimmy [McManus] and his head knocks everyone is being a bit cautious.”
Compounding the Knights’ dilemma regarding Mata’utia, he has one season left on his contract and they have reportedly already held preliminary talks about extending his deal.
Mata’utia was named on Friday in Samoa’s 24-man squad, alongside his elder brother, Peter.