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While most of the hype in Newcastle in recent weeks has been on Kalyn Ponga and the return of Mitchell Pearce, coach Nathan Brown believes quiet achiever Daniel Saifiti has become one of the Knights' most important forwards.

Saifiti returned from injury on Friday night in Newcastle's win over the Eels after being sidelined since round 13, racking up 14 runs for 114 metres and 29 tackles.

The bruising Fijian international came into the season after a shoulder reconstruction and Brown said his form was up and down.

But Saifiti knuckled down and suddenly a light switched on.

"I expect a bit more of Daniel; I am probably harder on him than I should be at times, but all for his own reasons," Brown said.

"Daniel is someone who I have got a lot of faith in to get to a very high level, and [against Parramatta] he showed why we have a lot of faith in him. He is definitely a kid who can help move this club in the right direction."

Knights prop Daniel Saifiti.
Knights prop Daniel Saifiti. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

Nick Meany made his debut with Ponga out with a hamstring injury, producing a smart offload in the lead up to Shaun Kenny-Dowall's try in the first half.

But Brown believes the Bulldogs-bound fullback still has some things to learn about playing in the NRL.

"Certainly in reserve grade, there's some things that you can have a little play with, and you might get away with, and he'll see that and say 's**t, I can't get away with it at this (NRL) level', where in reserve grade it is standard," the Knights' coach said.

"But what we got from Nick was what we expected – he's a young kid who has progressed through (the junior ranks).

"He's played good in twenties (Jersey Flegg) for a whole year, he's played good in reserve grade (Intrust Super Premiership) for a whole year, and his progression is like you would like all kids to have."

Brown is confident Sione Mata'utia will be back next week against the Gold Coast Titans, after leaving the field with blurred vision for an HIA, after copping a hip to the head with nine minutes remaining in the match.

But Newcastle is not willing to rush back Ponga, admitting he may need an extra week to recover, even though he is a very slim chance he could be fit.

"If it was a grand final, you'd probably say yes," Brown said.

"But he's too important for the club's long term, and his own future to be risking him with a hamstring at this stage."

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