In a series analysing who will line up in each position for all 16 teams in the opening round of the Telstra Premiership in 2021, NRL.com looks at the Newcastle Knights.
NRL.com says: Kalyn Ponga's shoulder injury will prevent him from starting the season with Tex Hoy the likely stand in for round one.
Edrick Lee has a foot fracture so Starford To'a is set to slot onto a flank.
Connor Watson should be back from an Achilles injury by round one and would return in the roaming lock/utility role he started 2020 in. He's likely to start at lock in round one with Lachlan Fitzgibbon sidelined following surgery and Mitchell Barnett moving to the second row.
Hooker Jayden Brailey will be back from a knee reconstruction allowing Kurt Mann to return to five-eighth.
Blake Green is unavailable to start the season after tearing an ACL last year. Brodie Jones could take one of the bench forward spots from Sue or King to provide more edge cover.
Jamie Soward says: I don't think Kurt Mann is a No.6. That puts a lot of pressure on Mitchell Pearce to be the only playmaker and decision-maker.
Kurt had his best year last year and is a good player but there was a different look about them when Green went into six. It took some pressure of Ponga when he was there and Pearce and they could play their game a bit more rather than trying to get everyone in position.
Their pack was a bit underwhelming in 2020.
Daniel Saifiti had a fantastic Origin but we didn't see that enough through the year. Tyson Frizell is interesting because I thought he looked a bit tired at the Dragons but if he can get back to that dynamic, powerful running they will be dangerous because Fitzgibbon (when fit) does it the other side.
In an ideal world O'Brien would only have one of Mann or Watson in the side, I don't think he'd want to carry both when Ponga's fit. He might be better with Tex Hoy who's a bigger body and covers anywhere in the backline. They need another option on the bench because Sue, King, and Jacob Saifiti are too similar for mine.
Knights in 2021
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