Connor Watson’s return from injury could not have been timed any better.
After spending the past month on the sideline nursing a groin tear, Watson is back on deck just as Kalyn Ponga finally succumbs to his ankle injury and will partner Mitchell Pearce in the halves against the Cronulla at Shark Park tomorrow.
Knights insiders claim Watson may well have been fit to play against the Panthers last weekend but after re-tearing his groin trying to come back too early a few weeks ago, the club’s medical staff have taken no risks with him.
Knights coach Nathan Brown is confident Watson will be ready to go.
“Connor’s trained well all week and shown no ill effects from the injury but we have still got the captain’s run to go so hopefully, there will be no last minute hitches,” he said.
With Watson in the halves, the side’s lucky charm, Nick Meaney will again handle the fullback role.
Meaney is yet to taste defeat after three appearances in the NRL.
Ponga spent the back half of the week in a moon boot after scans revealed he had further damaged the ligaments in his left ankle against the Panthers.
While he won’t play against the Sharks, it remains to be seen if he can shrug off the injury in time for his side’s final round clash at home against St George Illawarra.
Brown was not prepared to speculate on his chances of recovering in time to meet the Dragons.
While the Watson move to five-eighth is the biggest change, there will also be a reshuffle of the forward pack with Luke Yates, who was originally named on an extended bench, coming into the 17 at the expense of young prop Pasami Saulo.
Saulo suffered a head knock against the Panthers but despite passing his concussion tests, Brown has opted to rest him and he is unlikely to play NRL again next week.
The Knights are preparing for another big physical test against a Sharks outfit with plenty of hardened, experienced campaigners in the pack.
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Cronulla will also go into the clash with plenty of emotion following the death of former player Lance Thompson and the fact that veteran backrower and premiership-winner Luke Lewis will be playing his final game on his home ground before retirement.
Brown says his side will need to be every bit as committed as they were against the Panthers last weekend to come away with another upset win.
“The Sharks, I think, are a genuine premiership threat and I’ve got no doubts they think it as well,” he said.
“They have good, experiences players who know how to win and what is required and with luck with injuries, they’d fancy themselves as having a good shot at it.
“It will be a great challenge for our young blokes to try and back up what they did against Penrith last week.”
Fullback Valentine Holmes shapes as a huge threat.