Knights superstar Kalyn Ponga will not be at 100 per cent for his side’s elimination final on Sunday because the fullback is returning from injury early.
It’s been revealed the Newcastle playmaker will come back from a high grade AC joint injury to face the Raiders a week ahead of the regular recovery period.
Ponga injured his shoulder against the Sharks in Round 26 and it will be exactly 14 days when he returns for the club’s first home final in 2006.
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“There is no doubt in the world he won’t be 100 per cent for this game. He will require pain killing injections, he’ll have strapping and padding on his shoulder,” Dave Riccio said on NRL 360.
“Similar injuries this year were Brent Naden and Jeremiah Nanai, both missed three matches. Kalyn is certainly coming back quicker than what others have… he won’t be at 100 per cent.”
Gordon Tallis suffered the injury during his playing career and said Ponga will know his exact fitness levels from his first contact on Sunday.
“I’ll be watching him get up from the first collision. The (concussion) hurdle he jumped over at the beginning of the year, that’s one of the biggest hurdles in the game but watch the way he’s playing now.
“The thing he’s got to do is make his first touch his best and go straight into collision, test it early and see where he’s at.
“I wouldn’t even test at training, just get the super juice, ask the doc for a double serve.”
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Paul Crawley believes Ricky Stuart’s men will target Ponga from the opening whistle.
“I’ll be shocked if the Raiders don’t go out and go straight after him, bomb him and put as much kick pressure on as you can and just really try and rattle his cage,” he said.
“Because every time Ponga plays the Raiders, he tears them to pieces. Him being on the field, even at 70 or 80 per cent, it’s a huge difference.”
Riccio then asked if Newcastle could win without Ponga and Braith Anasta they could, which prompted the veteran journalist to fire back “so why risk him?”.
“The thing with the AC joint, I’ve had the same (injury) and mine still pops up,” Anasta said.
“He’ll feel it for the rest of the season but you needle it, you don’t feel it much during the game. It’s terrible during the week and then you juice is up the next weekend and you go again.
“Just don’t think about it because it’s not going to do you any justice.”
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“Yes, he has to. If he’s not on the field they don’t win,” Crawley responded