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Nine fine with spine: Brailey thrilled to see first-choice combo finally in place

Newcastle co-captain Jayden Brailey is confident the side's first-string spine of Mitchell Pearce, Jake Clifford and Kalyn Ponga can immediately click against the Warriors on Saturday.

The Knights have been decimated with injuries in 2021 but could field their best halves and fullback combination of the year with Pearce and Ponga named to make their highly anticipated returns from injury. 

Pearce's return from a three-month stint on the sidelines with a torn pectoral was confirmed on Tuesday afternoon in a massive boost for the 14th-placed Knights.

He's set to link up with mid-season recruit Clifford for the first time and could possibly be joined by Ponga, who has been named but will need to get through training this week to play.  

Hymel Hunt (hamstring) and David Klemmer (suspension) have also been named to return but the side will be without Bradman Best for 6-8 weeks after he needs an operation to repair syndesmosis damage suffered against the Rabbitohs.

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"There's a bit of light heading our way," Brailey told

"It's been a tough couple of months but we'll keep battling on. Having Junior and possibly KP back, they're our two big guns, it's always hard when people are coming in and out of key positions.

"Junior will be a huge addition for us, he brings a lot of energy and is a loud voice. He makes everyone around him better players. He can't stop talking footy and that rubs off on all of us."

Brailey has been a mainstay in the Knights side this season after lasting just two games before rupturing his ACL in 2020. 

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He's been impressed by the addition of Clifford despite recent results not going the side's way over the past fortnight since his mid-season arrival.

Brailey believes Pearce will help ease the pressure on the former Cowboy.

"He's got an unreal kicking game and that's one thing I've noticed that he's immediately brought to us," Brailey said of Clifford.

"He's quite calm so I'm looking forward to how he goes with Junior. He's fit in well and is an unreal bloke. We love having him here."

The Knights are remarkably just two points outside the top eight after 14 rounds despite winning only five games this season.

The condensed Telstra Premiership ladder keeps their finals hopes well and truly alive leading into home games against the Warriors and Cowboys.

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"We can't really string too many losses now, we've got to get results if we want to make something of our year," Brailey said.

"There are some positives out of the Rabbitohs game but we've got to keep building. I thought in the first half we got a bit of our DNA back.

"It's an attitude thing. Not a whole lot can change within a week but I think our mindset and attitude was a lot better."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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