KNIGHTS skipper Trent Hodkinson did not travel with the team to Townsville on Thursday for the clash with North Queensland, having apparently been dropped.
The goalkicking halfback has paid the price for some flimsy defence in recent games, in particular in last week’s 24-6 loss to the Roosters.
Hodkinson faces a weekly battle to get on the field because of a chronic knee injury, but it was reported on Thursday that he had been omitted for reasons of form, not fitness, although he is not expected to play in reserve grade this week.
The 28-year-old former NSW Origin representative is contracted to Newcastle until the end of 2018.
Utility back Jaelen Feeney is expected to come into Newcastle’s starting side to partner Brock Lamb at the scrumbase on Saturday.
It will be Feeney’s sixth NRL game.
It is unclear who will captain the Knights but Queensland Origin star Dane Gagai will be the most experienced player in their squad.
The absence of Hodkinson and Jarrod Mullen, who is facing a career-ending drugs suspension, means Newcastle are without both their senior halves and their highest-paid players.