Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien insists Kalyn Ponga isn’t headed for long-term concussion problems, and says his star fullback would have been ready to face Gold Coast on Friday night if not for NRL protocols.
Ponga passed a HIA after State of Origin II but the Bunker deemed his head knock a category one concussion, with the mandatory seven-day layoff keeping him out of action this weekend.
But O’Brien expressed his frustration the Bunker’s judgement was backed over a doctor’s, and denied Ponga was developing a pattern of concussions similar to Sydney five-eighth Luke Keary.
“The first process for us is let’s go and clear all that up with the specialists that know a hell of a lot more than me, and that should clear the rest (up),” he told reporters.
“He passed the assessment with the Queensland doctor after the game … number one for me as a coach, but then also as someone that cares about him (is) he was OK.
“The frustration is the people that are actually talking to him and doing the assessment don’t get the final decision.
“We’ll send him off to the specialists and make sure everything’s right, but he’s in there and I had a chat … he seems pretty good.”
The Knights (4-10) could have done with their No.1 for their clash with the Titans (3-12), although centre Bradman Best and front-rower Daniel Saifiti are expected to be named in the 17 from the reserves list.
O’Brien said his side wouldn’t throw in the towel on 2022 despite their poor record.
“We’ve got four of our next five games at home, there’s something still to be done this year,” he said.
“We’re training really well, I saw some of that transfer in the Canberra game, we need to do it for longer this week.
“We’re not content with where we’re at on the ladder or the performances that we’ve put in at home.”
Gun prop David Fifita returns for the Titans, but it’s the only confirmed change to a side that’s lost five straight games, prompting questions of coach Justin Holbrook as to why he’s sticking with a potentially broken formula.
“We’re always looking at things we’re doing, but we’ve just got to improve on the field,” he told reporters.
“We competed hard against the Sharks and fell just short again, so we’re not a million miles off but we are on the ladder.
“When you have Jayden Campbell, Dave Fifita out, you don’t have a heap of choices … we haven’t been far off and especially against the Sharks.”