Injuries to forwards Luke Yates and Lachlan Fitzgibbon plus the likely return of other forwards will kick off a Newcastle reshuffle for next week but coach Nathan Brown appears lukewarm on the odds of recalling dropped captain Trent Hodkinson from reserve grade.
Brown also confirmed he plans to keep winger Nathan Ross in the fullback role after the City Origin star excelled in his first ever start at the back in a tough 32-28 loss to the Dragons at UOW Jubilee Oval on Sunday.
Despite panning the efforts of young halves Brock Lamb and Jaelen Feeney in a dire, scoreless second-half collapse, Brown insisted an NRL half needs to be a threat running the ball.
He said if a half doesn't offer more than just a kicking game "you're wasting your time" in what appeared to be a snub to the former series-winning NSW Origin playmaker.
Lamb and Feeney each provided some quality touches in a magical half-hour period in which the Knights ran in five unanswered tried but each took poor options during a 22-0 second-half whitewash as the Dragons roared home for a comeback win.
Despite lamenting a lack of big-game experience such as that shown by Dragons rep players Tyson Frizell and Josh Dugan, Brown said Hodkinson's experience was not the type that would have made the difference.
"That's probably not the type of experience that cost us today, it's ability to lift physically and mentally more than anything," Brown said when asked about Hodkinson's chances of a recall on a day where the ex-Bulldog guided the Knights to a 32-20 Intrust Super Premiership win over Illawarra.
"Without giving too much praise to the young halves then being too critical of them, their first half, that 30 minutes, they were outstanding the way they played, the tempo they played the game at," Brown added.
"As a half, you've got to be a threat with the ball today. If you're not a running threat with the ball you're wasting your time. You can't rely on just kicking to score tries because defences are too good.
"The tempo they (Lamb and Feeney) played the game at [in the first half] was beautiful. In the second half they played at the speed I could play at."
Brown held concerns over the immediate playing future of Yates due to an AC-joint injury while Fitzgibbon also picked up a knock.
"We've got a few bumps. Lachie's got a bit of a problem. Luke Yates is our worst one, he's going to be out for a fair period. He's done something bad to his AC. We've certainly got a few blokes that are a bit wounded at the moment. We've got a long turnaround so we'll know a bit more [Monday]," Brown said.
"Fitzy, I'm not sure what it is, I haven't spoken to the doc yet. We're hoping to have Joe Wardle and Jamie Buhrer back next week so those two guys obviously if they're fit and young [Sam Stone] has had a few weeks off now to get his body right again so he's going to be fit again as well so we've certainly got some [options].
"If Jamie's all right and Joe's all right they're probably two of our most experienced players and Stoney's been doing some good stuff this year so there's three blokes who we're hopeful of having available."
Brown said he regretted not having given Ross a run at fullback last year when Gagai was on Maroons duty but was now expecting to leave the Coogee junior in the role long-term following his 220 metres and three tries on Sunday.
"He's been training [at fullback] for a fair while now, Rossy," Brown said.
"He trained really well last [Origin period] and we nearly did it last time and then to be honest I regretted not doing it because he did look really good there at training.
"I think we'll leave Rossy there now for the duration. Gags had some beautiful moments in the centres, probably only the second time this year he got some really good ball. Unfortunately the second half we didn't play in the second half so he never saw the same action."