Mine coach's say: Round 19
While nib Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown doesn’t expect too many changes this Saturday against the Brisbane Broncos, he says the fitness of several players is yet to be determined.
“We have got a few blokes carrying a few bumps, so apart from Gags (Dane Gagai) coming back, I wouldn’t expect any changes... although that will depend on player fitness including Sione Mata’utia," he said on Tuesday.
“Sione will be named and we expect him to play, but I wouldn’t say he is 100 per cent guaranteed."
Brown also confirmed new recruit Shaun Kenny-Dowall may take a little longer to make his Club debut.
“Shaun won’t be available this week,” commented Brown.
“I would be surprised if he wasn’t able to play against the (Sydney) Roosters next week, but he’s not quite right at this stage.
“His hamstring... is bordering on being ready, but we’ve given him an extra week and erring on the side of caution.”
With a try in his first NRL match back since 2015 and named Players’ Player in Round 18, Brown said Chanel Mata’utia looks like he’ll remain in first grade.
“Chanel had a solid game and he is a player that when I first came to Club, thought he has got plenty of talent,” he said.
“With a bit of luck and the right attitude, Chanel has got the tools to be a good NRL player.
“He has played a number of games in succession in Reserve Grade now, has played solid in first grade and I would expect him to play again this week regardless of the fitness of other people.”
The Knights coach admits this weekend will be tough coming up against the fifth-placed Brisbane Broncos.
“I have thought for a while now, the best two teams are Melbourne and Cronulla and the next two teams were the Broncos and Roosters, and Manly seem to be creeping up as well," Brown said.
“The Broncos are a top four team when they’re playing well and I’d expect them to be on the higher end of the table at the latter part of the year.”
The Knights coach also suggested his halves combination is likely to remain.
“The plan when Trent (Hodkinson) came back was to give him a period of time there,” said Brown.
“Brock (Lamb) needed to go and have a game in Reserve Grade as it was something he needed for his development and now he’s back.
“He is a player that we do have a good long term hope for, so the more games he plays, the better he’ll get."
All three grades play at McDonald Jones Stadium this Sunday.