NRL | Nathan Ross puts his hand up to play anywhere as Mitchell Pearce and Daniel Saifiti return from injury for the Knights against Parramatta on Friday night

Nathan Ross
Nathan Ross

He’s spent the majority of his NRL career playing on the wing or in the centres and this time last year, scored a hattrick of tries against St George Illawarra at fullback.

But on Friday night against the Parramatta Eels at McDonald Jones Stadium, Nathan Ross will be thrust into a “Mr Fix-It” role off the bench and could literally bob up in any position on the field.

“We’ll see how the game pans out as far as where and when we will use him but he is pretty versatile Rossy,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said.

“He’d probably put his hand up to play just about anywhere so we’ll see how he goes.

“I wanted to show some faith in young Cory [Denniss] in the centres and with Rossy on the bench, he gives us some injury cover out wide.

“But he could also come on and play a bit of a middle forward role or backrow if need be and give us an injection of enthusiasm in much the same way Mary [coach Paul McGregor] is using Jason Nightingale off the bench at the Dragons.”

The retention of Denniss at the expence of Ross in the starting lineup was the only real surprise when the squad to meet the Eels was announced yesterday.

Co-captain Mitchell Pearce and prop Daniel Saifiti are confirmed starters while 20-year-old Nick Meaney will debut at fullback for the injured Kalyn Ponga.

Brown described the return of Pearce after three months out through injury as “great news” for the club.

“He’s got through pretty much two weeks of full training, he’s been cleared by all our medical staff, the specialists so it is great news for us,”he said.

“Obviously, we haven’t really coped with the loss of Mitchell great to be honest.

“We had a couple of wins along the way but there has been a few key moments in games where we would have liked to have done better. With Mitchell’s experience, we probably would have done.

Mitchell Pearce

Mitchell Pearce

“When you lose a player in a key position like that, it can affect a lot of people around him. We need to look at our recruitment and certain aspects of our game so that if we lose Mitchell again, we cope a lot better.”

Asked about the qualities Pearce will bring to the side against the Eels, Brown said:

“The two biggest things he brings along with his experience is his talk and ability to drive his teammates and his kicking game is as good as any and that’s an area where we have really struggled.

“In those two areas, he is going to have a really good impact.”

With the Knights next to no chance of qualifying for the finals, Brown admitted the focus was on finishing the season strongly and building some momentum for 2019.

“We’ve had our share of setbacks this year with key people not being able to play and we haven’t quite handled it as well as we’d like,”he said.

“Hopefully, Kalyn can get back sooner rather than later and we can work on combinations and have a good strong finish [to the season] and put some good performances on to move forward with.”

The Eels will no doubt still be smarting from the last time the two sides met five weeks ago at ANZ Stadium.

The Knights dominated that night, winning 30-4 with prop Daniel Saifiti producing a man-of-the-match performance.

He hasn’t played since however after tearing ligaments in his foot at some stage during the game but is back to face the Eels again. 

“Daniel’s last performance was his best performance against Parramatta and unfortunately, he’s been out since then but we get him back which is a huge boost for us,”Brown said.

“I’d like to think he can come back and pick up where he left off. He brings some nice added size to our pack and can play some big minutes as well.”

Brown declared Meaney deserves his opportunity at fullback with Ponga sidelined through injury.