Knights name two debutants as ban adds to injury crisis

Jasper Bruce and Scott Bailey |

Newcastle have been forced to name two debutants and reach outside of their top-30 roster to field a team against the Dolphins after their massive injury crisis left the club short on troops.

The Knights on Tuesday named a makeshift team for their round-three clash, after applying for an exemption to name NSW Cup playmaker Ryan Rivett to debut on their bench.

Young centre Dylan Lucas has also been named for his debut on the interchange, with Tyson Gamble to play five-eighth and Phoenix Crossland hooker.

The uncapped Oryn Keeley, Ben Talty and Thomas Cant have also been named in the reserves from outside the Knights’ full-time squad, with Jack Johns fighting to overcome an ankle injury to take his place on the bench.

It comes as the Knights go without Kalyn Ponga (concussion), Jayden Brailey (concussion), Tyson Frizell (ankle), Kurt Mann (calf), Adam Elliott (groin), Simi Sasagi (shoulder) and Krystian Mapapalangi (shoulder). 

They will also be unable to call on Jacob Saifiti. The prop on Tuesday accepted a five-match ban for his hit on Wests Tigers hooker Jake Simpkin, having copped the harshest charge for a high tackle in five-and-a-half years.

There is no guarantee the Knights will welcome any of those key players back for the round-four match against Canberra.

Ponga is recovering from his fourth head knock in the space of 10 months, while prized recruit Elliott is out until at least round six.

The Tigers also spent Monday and Tuesday counting the cost of Sunday’s match.

John Bateman is a chance of making his NRL return after being listed in the reserves for their clash with Canterbury.

But the joint-venture will be without Daine Laurie (knee), Tommy Talau (nose), Jake Simpkin (concussion) and Isaiah Papali’i (suspension).

Charlie Staines will play fullback and Brandon Wakeham will start at hooker, while Junior Tupou and Starford To’a come into the backline, and Shawn Blore and Fonua Pole return in the back row.

Elsewhere, the Roosters have Jared Waerea-Hargreaves and Victor Radley back for their grudge match against South Sydney, while Brandon Smith has been cleared to play after a back injury.

The Rabbitohs’ forward pack has been boosted by the naming of Tevita Tatola and Hame Sele.

Melbourne have key returnees in the form of Justin Olam, Xavier Coates, Tariq Sims and Tui Kamikamica against Gold Coast, after losing Nelson Asofa-Solomona (knee) from their pack for up to eight weeks.

The Titans are without Sam Verrills (shoulder), with Chris Randall to replace him at hooker and Tino Fa’asuamaleaui’s brother Iszac to debut off the bench.

Debutant Taine Tuaupiki and one-gamer Tom Chester will play fullback for the Warriors and North Queensland respectively in their clash on Saturday, with Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad (concussion) and Scott Drinkwater (suspension) out.

Jackson Ford has been ruled out for the Warriors with a concussion, while Josh Curran is trying to beat a hip injury to play.

Jayden Nikorima will run out at hooker for the Dolphins in their Friday night date with Newcastle, with Jeremy Marshall-King suspended.

Josh Schuster will return from a calf injury to play five-eighth for Manly against Parramatta on Thursday, while Cronulla and Canberra have opted to keep Nicho Hynes’ and Josh Papalii’s calves on ice for another week.