How Brown could replace Griffin and Ponga

Nathan Brown has a week to run over his options.

Missing both Kalyn Ponga and Slade Griffin through injury, the nib Newcastle Knights will be forced to roll out a new-look spine when they host Parramatta next Friday night at McDonald Jones Stadium.

It's no secret Mitchell Pearce is pencilled in to make his long-awaited return from injury but who joins him in the spine remains a mystery.

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Connor Watson will be there somewhere, but his versatility lends himself to a positional change should the coach need him to make one.

While the loss of Ponga (3-4 weeks) and Griffin (season) is substantial, Brown has options.

Here's how the coach could fill the void:

The fullback options...

Connor Watson


When Ponga injured his hamstring against Canterbury-Bankstown last week, Watson shifted into the custodian's role.

It was a position he starred in.

In his 50th NRL game, Watson looked at home roaming the field in what was a two-try performance.

While he's spent the bulk of his time in first grade playing in the halves, he's no stranger to fullback or hooker for that matter.

Watson may also come into consideration for the hooking rotation with Griffin unavailable.

Nick Meaney

He's bound for the Bulldogs in 2019 but he could still make his NRL debut in the red and blue before the season is out.

A few games back from injury in the Intrust Super Premiership NSW, Meaney is slowly regaining his confidence.


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He missed three months of the season due to ankle surgery but is continually lifting with each game.

He's a player with potential.

Meaney wore the No.1 in the NSW Under 20s side last season.

He's also claimed the Knights' ISP Player of the Year for 2017 and under 20s award in 2016.

Nathan Ross

The versatile back returned from a groin injury in a strong performance for the ISP NSW side last week.

While he's spent the bulk of 2018 in the centres, the 29-year-old can cover any spot in the backline, including fullback.


Prior to Kalyn Ponga's arrival, the No.1 jersey was a shirt Ross had worn several times.

An energetic and busy ball runner, a move to fullback could be just the thing for Ross to get his season back on track.

The hooking options...

Danny Levi

The logical choice to replace Griffin.

Having debuted in 2015, it's easy to forget Levi is still only 22.

Yet at such a young age, the Wellington product has already achieved so much.

He made his Test debut for New Zealand last year where he shone in the Rugby League World Cup.

A pocket rocket who doesn't mind the dirty work, the injury to Griffin is an opportunity for Levi to stake his claiming as the starting No.9 and increase his playing time.

Jamie Buhrer

He's the team's Mr Fix It. The co-captain offers up so much.


Whether he's playing lock, on an edge, in the halves or at hooker, you know you're in safe hands.

Buhrer is the most likely candidate to share the hooking role with Levi.

It's a job he's done before.

There's also every chance coach Brown starts the next game with Buhrer to keep Levi in that impact role he plays so well.

Tom Starling

One to keep an eye on in the ISP NSW.

The NSWRL's SG Ball Player of the Year in 2015, Starling is working his way through the grades.

Last season he played a strong year between 20s and ISP.

The Kincumber Colts junior is still developing his game but a player to keep an eye out for none the less.