Brown: Knights to look at injury plan
Newcastle Knights coach Nathan Brown admits that the clubs may have to look at its injury management plan after key players were regularly sidelined during the season.
Only Shaun Kenny-Dowall and Aidan Guerra have played in every one of the Knights' 23 matches this year.
Their Telstra Premiership season was dealt a huge blow with the loss of playmaker Mitchell Pearce for 10 weeks in the middle of the year, while Maroons debutant Kalyn Ponga and first choice five-eighth Connor Watson have had several injury setbacks.
On top of that, Tautau Moga and Slade Griffin suffered repeats of previous serious injuries, ending their seasons.
"It's something that we will certainly look at, at the end of the year - there's certainly an element of bad luck there, there's no doubt about that," Brown said.
"But when you get a number of injuries to key players or any players, you want to review what you are doing, whether that is coaching, medical, strength and conditioning, we will look at all areas.
"Our injury toll compared to some clubs has been bad, but compared to some others it hasn't been much worse - it just depends who gets hurt, I suppose.
"Where we are as a club, losing Mitchell when we did and Connor and those blokes in key positions, it certainly did have a negative effect - but could we have done anything better? I'd say we could have."
While Brown admits the club could push Ponga to play this week he said it is not worth the risk given Newcastle will not be featuring in the finals series.
"There is a risk if he keeps playing, that's what we got told last week," Brown said.
"He got put in the boot this week and the reports were he would recover and was going to be fine, but if you keep pushing him he could get a lot worse."
The Knights will get to have a look at another potential rising star when they take on the Dragons, with Tom Starling gaining clearance from the NRL under the new squad size rules. That will give Brown another option at dummy-half.
"He's been cleared, and we are very grateful for that," the Knights' coach said.
"It gives us a recognised dummy half to come off the bench. To come on and support Danny [Levi].
"I guess it's the commonsense approach, as Slade is a recognised hooker and he is injured and we've tried other people who aren't hookers, that's the reality of it.
"We haven't not picked any other player to give Tommy a game, he deserves a game and he is a hooker."
Originally from the Central Coast, Starling has been part of the Knights' junior system from high-school age. He has not played at NRL level but Newcastle have seen enough from the 20-year-old to know he has huge potential.
"He's as tough as nails, and quite courageous," Brown said.
"When I first saw him, I questioned his size straight away and then as soon as he played reserve grade he finds a way to compete - but he has definitely earned his opportunity."