Bulldogs-bound youngster Nick Meaney will make his NRL debut at fullback for the Knights against Parramatta on Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.
The Newcastle Herald can reveal Meaney will get the nod to replace the injured Kalyn Ponga in the No1 jumper when coach Nathan Brown announces his squad for the Eels game on Tuesday.
Returning co-captain Mitchell Pearce, prop Daniel Saifiti and centre Nathan Ross will all be named for the clash against the Eels.
Five-eighth Connor Watson, who was considered a strong contender for the fullback spot last week after filling in there and scoring two tries against the Bulldogs prior to the bye, will be reunited with Pearce in the halves.
SPORT: The Newcastle Knights
That left Meaney in a two-way battle with Ross to play at the back after both trained in the position during a session on Sunday with the former Ballina Seagulls junior ultimately getting the nod.
Ross will come back into the side at left centre after returning from injury in NSW Cup against the Bulldogs with Cory Denniss expected to miss out.
Ironically, Brown is substituting one 20-year-old for another with Meaney filling in for Ponga.
Brown has also made good on his word that Meaney’s decision to sign with the Bulldogs last month would not affect his chances of making his NRL debut this season.
But the opportunity might prove to be short-lived.
After coming off with a hamstring strain against the Bulldogs,an injury that cost him Origin lll selection, Ponga is already back running and considered a chance of returning as early as the Gold Coast game at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday week.
No-one could argue Meaney doesn’t deserve his selection.
He won two first grade Northern Rivers premierships with Ballina in 2014 and 2015 as a teenager before linking with the Knights.
In his first season at the club, he was the Knights’ NYC Player of the Year and last season, he played NSW Under 20’s and was the club’s NSW Cup Player of the Year.
Not surprisingly, he was a target for rival clubs and with Ponga blocking his path at the Knights, made the decision last month to sign a three year contract at the Bulldogs, joining teammate Jack Cogger at Belmore.
The Bulldogs see him as their long-term replacement for Moses Mbye.
Meanwhile, injured hooker Slade Griffin will have the first of two operations to repair ruptured ligaments in his left knee in Melbourne tomorrow morning.
The initial surgery should determine how long he will be sidelined. He faces another operation in three months.