Emerging halfback Phoenix Crossland is poised to make his NRL debut on Saturday night.
Missing four players to State of Origin and two to injury, the nib Newcastle Knights will field a new-look team for their clash against the Warriors, with coach Nathan Brown confirming they will debut their first rookie for 2019.
While it’s been a disrupted week with both Mitch Pearce and David Klemmer receiving call-ups to the NSW Origin side, the Knights will welcome back experienced campaigner Aidan Guerra (ankle) and Jacob Saifiti (leg) to the first-grade unit.
“It’s pleasing though for Jacob Saf, he’s been playing for a while back from his leg (injury) now,” Brown said.
“He’s starting to get himself going. Aidan’s missed a lot of footy, had a few hit outs in reserve grade and young Phoenix gets to make his debut.
“And this is what happens around Origin time a lot of people and opportunity and Phoenix’s case, I suppose a lot of young players get their first opportunity to play a first-grade game.”'
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Crossland, 18 is a product of the Knights’ junior system and still eligible for the Jersey Flegg competition.
Having trained fulltime with the NRL squad this year, the crafty playmaker will run out against the Warriors in either the halves of hooker.
“There’s a number of options there,” Brown said.
“When you do have the amount of changes we’ve had, the versatility within the squad.
“Phoenix gives us versatility… he’s at his most comfortable in the halves. He’s played a little bit of hooker too. We’d expect Phoenix to play in one of those two positions.”
Likely to start the game on the bench, Brown said there’s no hard and fast time he expects to inject Crossland into the action.
“That will depend on the game situation,” he said.
“He’ll get out and make a good account of himself at some stage.”