Ponga to return for injury-ravaged Knights

Newcastle fullback Kalyn Ponga is set to make his return to the NRL when they face Gold Coast, as the Knights face a crippling injury list.

KALYN PONGA
KALYN PONGA Picture: Ashley Feder/Getty Images

Fullback Kalyn Ponga is set to make a much-needed return for Newcastle on Saturday as the Knights struggle to name a 21-man team in the face of a crippling injury toll.

The NRL club's injured list reached crisis levels on Sunday with the Knights expected to lose halfback Mitchell Pearce to a pectoral injury, as well as Tex Hoy (hamstring), David Klemmer (knee) and Kurt Mann (concussion).

Mann appears set to miss the clash with the Titans on the Gold Coast after he was knocked out attempting to make a tackle in the second half of the 22-13 loss to St George Illawarra.

Pearce will go for scans on his left pectoral muscle on Monday with fears he will miss "months".

Klemmer will have scans on his knee.

The Knights' wounded list already includes Bradman Best (elbow), Lachlan Fitzgibbon (shoulder), Edrick Lee (hand) and Phoenix Crossland, all unavailable this week.

"I don't think I'll be able to name 21," coach Adam O'Brien said.

"We lost Dom (Young, knee) in reserve grade today.

"Naming the team is probably going to be a really big hurdle this week."

Forward Jacob Saitifi is facing a two week stint on the sidelines for a grade one shoulder charge on Mikaele Ravalawa in the 56th minute of Sunday's loss.

However, if he accepts the early guilty plea he will miss just the Titans match, adding to the rapidly shrinking list of available players.

If the latest injuries are confirmed the Knights will need to apply for NRL dispensation to name players from outside their top 30 to face the Titans.

O'Brien expects Queensland star Ponga will be back, revealing he was close to taking the field on Sunday but was asked to get an extra week of contact work in as he recovers from off-season shoulder surgery.

"He'll get a whole block of contact this week, he'll get a little bit more because he hasn't played tonight," O'Brien said on Sunday, although he's disappointed Ponga won't be joining a fit team.

"That was the real thing we were looking forward to was getting guys like Bradman, Ponga, Blake (Green) in there with (Pearce) and Brails and all of them.

"We've just got to stick together and work really hard on our rehab for the injured guys and get the team back on the park

"If we keep that character about us we'll be thereabouts at the end of the year when we put that team back out there."

Despite the injuries O'Brien said he was proud of the fight in the team to keep battling with just one player left on the bench in the second half.

"We'll get injured guys back, but the foundations of a footy team long-term is you need to be able to dig in and have a go no matter what goes against you," he said.

"That's what this town's about and that's what this footy team is about."