Newcastle Knights fullback Kalyn Ponga is set for a stint on the sidelines after scans revealed a 'high-grade' AC joint injury on Monday. Ponga wore a brutal shot from former teammate Jesse Ramien and went down clutching at his shoulder in the Knights' 32-6 NRL victory over the Sharks on Sunday.
The club announced on Monday that Ponga has a 'high grade' AC shoulder injury and won't play in Round 27 against the Dragons. However the Knights said they are confident of having their captain back for the first week of the finals.
Ponga was once again the star of the show for the in-form Knights outfit and scored his team's opener, before putting on a masterclass in the second half. However, he was in visible pain after the hit from Ramien late in the game.
When the incident occurred, with the Knights running away with the game, Fox Sports commentator Cooper Cronk said the fullback needed to come off the field ahead of the finals. "You wouldn't want to risk it...he will be right but Adam O'Brien needs to get him off the field," he said. "There's no point risking your gun player."
Cronk said it was a good sign that Ponga didn't go off immediately, which Brian Fletcher also reiterated after the match. “They have the Dragons next week so they may rest him. He was complaining about the shoulder but the AC joint is a funny one. Sometimes it feels bad at the time but then 3-4 days later you are sweet,” Fletcher said.
Knights coach Adam O'Brien was unsure over how serious the injury was in his post-match press conference with Ponga being treated in the locker room. He also hinted there was a good chance he would rest the fullback for the next game, regardless of how serious the injury was.
Dane Gagai or Lachie Miller appear the likely replacements at fullback, depending on Ponga's injury. "I won't be stupid with (Ponga) that's for sure," O'Brien said. "Lachie Miller hasn't left us yet. He's training well. He'll come in and do a good job."
Ponga's injury certainly sent shockwaves around the NRL. The fullback is currently the most electrifying player in the NRL, alongside fellow fullback Reece Walsh, and has taken his game to a new level this year. Knights fans will be hoping the injury isn't too serious heading into the finals.
Not good. He has been great recently. Even better today. Would love to see him lead the Knights deep into the finals.
— Blue N Lonesome (@bluesbender) August 27, 2023
Surely they rest him up next week and get him ready for week one of the finals
— Anson smith (@Ansonsmith6) August 27, 2023
Knights win eight in a row after Sharks victory
The Knights have secured a home final after defeating the Sharks and moving in front of them on the NRL ladder with one game to play. The lowest Newcastle can finish is sixth, meaning they will host a home final for the first time since 2006.
O'Brien was unaware the team had secured a home finals birth after the match, but was thrilled when it was confirmed in the post-match press conference. "We didn't speak about grand finals in the summer but we spoke about how good would it be to be in a semi-final at home," he said. "I'm really proud of the boys to achieve a goal that we set a long time ago."
Despite the gaping defeat, the Sharks have likely done enough to seal a finals berth of their own. They would only miss out if they lost by a large margin to Canberra next week, South Sydney beat the Sydney Roosters and North Queensland thrashed reigning premiers Penrith.
"It was disappointing in the end, that second half. We were just defending our tryline the whole day," Sharks coach Craig Fitzgibbon said of the Knights loss. "I didn't think we exerted any pressure on them, we just kept releasing it."
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