Injured Knights prop Jacob Saifiti is as much as six weeks ahead of schedule in his recovery from a broken leg suffered during a controversial off-field incident outside a Hamilton hotel in early December.
The 22-year-old needed surgery to repair a displaced fracture in his lower leg and there were initial fears the injury would sideline him for more than four months.
But if all goes to plan with his recovery and rehabilitation over the next couple of months, it’s understood he could be ready to play as early as the NRL’s second round.
“At this stage, Jacob is well ahead of where we thought he might be,”Knights head of performance Balin Cupples said.
“He’s been back to the specialist who is really happy with his progress. The screws he had put in during the surgery are where they should be.
“If they stay in place and he doesn’t require further surgery which is obviously the hope, we could see him ready to go as early as round two. Any sort of setback from here on in may delay that though.”
It could mean that Saifiti won’t have the screws removed and will play with them in his leg.
“That certainly could be the case, yes,” Cupples said.
The late night incident, which cost Saifiti a $50,000 fine [half suspended] after he was allegedly king-hit and knockout out during a confrontation outside the Greenroof Hotel, could not have happened at a worse time.
He played just eight NRL games because of injury in 2018 but had fully recovered from two shoulder operations and was training the house down in the opening four weeks of the pre-season before breaking his leg after falling awkwardly following the knockout punch.
“It was the best he had trained since I’ve been here without doubt,” Knights coach Nathan Brown said.
“He was a long way ahead of where he had been, training-wise.”
With the recruitment of three senior frontrowers in David Klemmer, Tim Glasby and James Gavet, the battle for spots in the Knights pack has never been more intense, which has only added to Saifiti’s injury frustrations.
Meanwhile, Knights backrower Mitch Barnett claims the club’s two trials against St George Illawarra at Kogarah’s Jubilee Oval in late February and the Cronulla trial at Maitland a week later will have a huge bearing on who will be selected in the forward pack for the opening round against the Sharks.
Asked if he is confident of nailing down a position in the 17, Barnett said: “It’s going to be tough but I feel like I’m doing everything I can to put my best foot forward.”
The screws he had put in during the surgery are where they should be.Balin Cupples