BARELY a week ago, Knights coach Nathan Brown declared he is "not a big fan of changing halves".
Now he might be forced to reassess that policy if he is to get Newcastle's season back on track before it is beyond salvation.
After Saturday's 26-18 loss at home to Manly - Newcastle's fourth successive defeat - a selection shake-up appears inevitable for the clash with Gold Coast Titans at CBus Super Stadium on Sunday.
Aidan Guerra will require replacement after breaking his ankle against Manly. Herman Ese'ese and Tautau Moga, who have found form in NSW Cup, will surely be considered.
But it is choosing his halves that shapes as Brown's most vexing dilemma.
Skipper Mitchell Pearce picks himself at No.7. Pearce might be yet to recapture last season's outstanding form, but it is not through lack of effort. If anything, perhaps he has been trying too hard.
Who partners him is the question. Already four players have had a crack this season, for various durations: Kalyn Ponga, Kurt Mann, Mason Lino and Connor Watson.
After Lino's debut for Newcastle, in the 13-12 loss to St George Illawarra eight days ago, Brown rated the former Warriors playmaker as "pretty solid" and suggested he might be a long-term proposition. But 70 minutes into the clash with Manly, when the game was still hanging in the balance, Brown replaced Lino with Watson.
At the post-match press conference, Brown said Lino "has barely played any footy, so he was quite underdone" - even though he did play 88 minutes against the Dragons.
Mann, who missed the Manly game with a sternum injury, could be available to tackle the Titans, in which case either he, Watson or Mason are likely to be surplus to requirements.
At 26, Mann is a year older than Lino and vastly more experienced. His 92 NRL games include finals campaigns with both Melbourne and the Dragons, for whom he played five-eighth in two play-offs last season.
He was signed by Brown as a utility and back-up hooker, but he played most of his junior football as a five-eighth.
Mann has spent his entire NRL career as a jack-of-all-trades. Now might be the time to give him a pivotal role, permanently, and see if he can master it.