Ponga returns early as Storm sit out Harry Grant again

Scott Bailey |

Kalyn Ponga will return early from injury in a major boost for the Newcastle Knights.
Kalyn Ponga will return early from injury in a major boost for the Newcastle Knights.

Kalyn Ponga is poised to make an early return from a foot injury after being named to face Canberra as Newcastle fight to keep pace with their top-eight rivals.

Initially not due to return from a Lisfranc injury until round 20, Ponga has been named in the Newcastle No.1 jersey for Sunday’s crucial clash with the Raiders.

It comes as a host of State of Origin stars prepare to make their return, with Melbourne’s Harry Grant the sole exception after being rested again by the Storm.

But it is Ponga’s return that has the potential to be most influential.

The Knights fullback has not played since hurting his foot in April and his return is a timely boost given’s Newcastle fight for a finals spot.

Ponga could play up to nine games for Newcastle to finish the regular season.

It was in the same nine-week period Ponga turned it on last season, catapulting the Knights into fifth spot and helping him win the Dally M.

His return also comes in the same week the Knights named both Leo Thompson and Dylan Lucas to return from their injuries.

It also means Ponga could be an option to return for Queensland in State of Origin III, potentially at fullback or in a bench utility role.

Ponga hasn’t played for Queensland since the 2022 series, after ruling himself out last season on return from concussion.

But the news isn’t as good for the Maroons in Melbourne.

Grant has been rested for a second straight week, meaning he will not play again before Origin III.

Queensland winger Xavier Coates is also out for up to eight weeks with his hamstring injury, leaving Kane Bradley to replace him on the wing for the Storm.

At Manly, Tom Trbojevic’s return from a hamstring injury at centre has pushed Tolu Koula to fullback to face North Queensland.

The move has squeezed rookie Lehi Hopoate out of the backline, but he will play as a bench utility with Lachlan Croker still not back from lingering concussion issues.

Parramatta have named rookie Jake Tago to debut on the wing after Maika Sivo suffered another hamstring injury. Charlie Guymer will also debut on the bench.

Cronulla have opted to play Daniel Atkinson out of position and on the wing against Gold Coast, with Sione Katoa missing due to a concussion.

AJ Brimson is back for the Titans in the halves, potentially giving him a chance to push for Queensland Origin selection.

Wests Tigers have left Brent Naden out of their side to face Melbourne, with Charlie Staines returning on the wing and Solomon Faataape moving to centre.

Sydney Roosters have brought Michael Jennings back into their team at centre to replace the injured Joey Manu, with Sitili Tupouniua filling in on the other edge.

And Canterbury welcome Connor Tracey (concussion) and Kurt Mann (suspension) back against the Warriors.