As the nib Newcastle Knights prepare for their Round 16 clash with the St George Illawarra Dragons at Kogarah, coach Nathan Brown has provided an injury update on some of his players.
Young forward Sam Stone has gone back to Reserve Grade, named in the number 12 jersey after missing the last two matches in what has been an impressive NRL debut season.
“He is a lot better than what he was, he’s been carrying some bumps and bruises,” explained Brown.
“It has been a tough year for a young guy like Stoney and he carried an injury into one or two games which ideally he wouldn’t have to do, but we needed him at the time."
Utility Joe Wardle is not yet ready to return after having arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
“We were hopeful last week that he would make it,” said Brown.
“He would be someone more for the following week.”
Brown acknowledged the Englishman, who moved with his family to Australia before the start of the season, has been missing home at times.
“Joe has certainly had his bouts of home sickness but he is a player on contract at the moment for a few more years.”
Injured fullback Dylan Pythian continues to work on his recovery, set to have additional surgery on his knee this week.
“He had other complications and had to have an elbow operation and is having his knee done on Thursday,” said Brown.
“He had some work done and now that has recovered properly, it gives his knee reconstruction a far better chance of working better this time opposed to last time.
“Cross our fingers it all goes well and I’m sure he’ll come back next year and be a good player for us.”
Brown believes Phythian is a player with at a bright future with the Knights.
“He is someone, barring he pulls up okay, that we’d like to definitely keep around,” he said.
“He can certainly offer good support for Kalyn (Ponga) at fullback.
“He has already been playing fullback and hooker and can play five-eighth as well so he has good utility value.
“If he was to start next year playing in the halves it wouldn’t faze me as long as his body is good and having him as a back-up would be handy for Kalyn as well.”
Experienced forward Jamie Buhrer continues on his road to recovery.
“He is definitely improving and started to do a bit of light running and walking last week,”
“He has been re-scanned and he’s happy with it so he is stepping up his training and whether he becomes available next week will be determined by how this week goes.”
Meanwhile, Luke Yates has also been training at dummy half to add versatility to his game.
“He is not the biggest lock forward and lock forwards in today’s game are well over 100 kilograms,” maintained the Knights coach.
“As a smaller player and for his long-term future, he will need to get another string to his bow and be that type of bloke that can play two positions whether it be hooker or back row.
“It is good for his future and something we have done a little bit of work on and he has stepped up over the last three weeks to see if it is a role he can handle.”