Save your legs: Brown hatches plan to ease pressure on Knights whiz kid Ponga
Newcastle coach Nathan Brown is taking a cautious approach with Kalyn Ponga heading into this weekend's Telstra Premiership match against the Penrith Panthers, with the star fullback having limited training time in recent weeks.
The 2018 Maroons debutant has been named in his customary No.1 jersey but spent some time on Wednesday training in the halves with Connor Watson still injured.
Brown is still undecided what position the 20-year-old will play, with the potential switch aimed at easing his running metres.
"We are certainly looking at it. He hasn't trained for a while, with his hamstring and then his ankle and we are looking at limiting his running," Brown said.
"I think he has only had one proper training session in seven weeks, and he is still only a young kid, and while he is a very good player, his fitness levels and bases are going to improve more as he matures.
"Fullback requires more kilometres than anywhere, so we thought if we can look at him at No.6, it cuts his kilometres back.
"Nick (Meaney) is playing very well, so we will look at it today and see where it takes us, but we have Jack Cogger on hand if we want to leave KP at fullback."
The other thing giving Brown sleepless nights will be the Panthers' ability to come from the clouds and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.
They have done it three weeks in a row against Manly, Canberra and Gold Coast and Brown doesn't want to become the fourth victim.
The Newcastle mentor his side can't drop its guard simply because James Maloney is out injured.
"It's quite amazing with their year so far with the amount of comebacks they've had," the Knights' coach said.
"They are a team that when they play footy, they have a lot of good players and athletic people that know where the space is.
"We are going to have to be hungry to tackle that's for sure, and if we don't get that bit right, they'll cause us plenty of trouble.
"When they do get going for that period of time, they are so dangerous, and they seem to do it better from behind than in front."
While semi-finals are out of the picture for a fifth straight year, Brown says there is no thoughts of easing through the rest of the season.
Instead he has declared his side has the desire to disrupt the momentum of the their final three opponents - Penrith, Cronulla and Dragons - heading into the finals.
And the Novocastrians have their own agenda - giving the spine of Ponga, Mitchell Pearce and Watson more time together.
"Hopefully, Connor can come back next week, and we can see them all together again," Brown said.
"But we want to win again that's the main thing."