NRL | Knights coach Nathan Brown sticks with Kalyn Ponga in the halves against the Sharks despite Connor Watson's likely return

Knights livewire Connor Watson could find himself either at fullback or in a utility role off the bench against Cronulla at Shark Park on Saturday with Kalyn Ponga set for another stint in the halves.

Knights coach Nathan Brown confirmed on Tuesday Ponga will start at five-eighth alongside Mitchell Pearce after his strong debut in the playmaker role against the Panthers.

Watson is returning after missing a month of footy with a groin tear and was named on an extended bench for the clash.

Where he plays will hinge on how he pulls up after a week of training.  

“There are potentially a few options there but we want to see how he trains first before we make a decision,” Brown said.

“He didn’t seem like he had any problems today but we have another couple of sessions before the weekend.”

Kalyn Ponga with coach Nathan Brown

Kalyn Ponga with coach Nathan Brown

Several players including Ponga and backrowers Aidan Guerra and Lachlan Fitzgibbon sat out Tuesday’s light session because of niggling injuries but Brown expects to have a full compliment on Thursday.

In the only change to the 17 players that upset the Panthers, utility forward Luke Yates drops out with retiring veteran Chris Heighington returning to take on his old club for one final time.

Despite heading into one of the more daunting road trips in the NRL with the battle-hardened Sharks always a tough proposition at home, the Knights are in a buoyant mood after the Penrith upset.

Co-captain Jamie Buhrer was rapt in the performance.

“I think we responded well to certain flaws in our game that were exposed against the Warriors,” he said.

“We’ve shown in patches this year what we are capable of. We’ve had some really good wins but we’ve had some really rough losses so being able to put it together for 80 minutes against a quality team is very pleasing.”

Backrower Aidan Guerra said things finally clicked for the side at Pepper Stadium. 

“Everything that we spoke about and worked on into the season came to fruition in that one match,” he said.

“It’s probably a bit disappointing that it hasn’t happened sooner and more frequently but if nothing else, it is a good sign moving forward.”

Asked about Ponga playing in the halves, Guerra said: “Wherever he is playing, we are happy he is on our side.”

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