Everyone’s second favourite team the Gold Coast Titans have been a mixed bag to start the season, but all eyes will be on CBUS Super stadium this afternoon when they host an injury riddled Newcastle Knights side buoyed by the return of Kalyn Ponga.
Eager to improve on their 2-2 record the Titans will be without Ash Taylor once again, but in some good news halfback Jamal Fogarty (five carries for 27 metres) has been named to play despite suffering a quad cork in last week’s 20-4 defeat to the Raiders.
Titans coach Justin Holbrook has also named Brian Kelly at centre as he returns, after suffering a fractured hand in round one.
Kelly will now partner Phillip Sami (17 carries for 130 metres) on the edges with the youngster shifting to wing, after veteran Anthony Don (13 carries for 93 metres) was ruled out with a hip injury.
Superstar Kalyn Ponga has been named to make his long-awaited season debut after suffering a shoulder injury in the preseason.
Ponga’s return couldn’t come at a better time for the Novocastrians who suffered a string of injuries in their round four 22-13 loss to the St George Illawarra Dragons.
Injuries to Tex Hoy (hamstring), Mitchell Pearce (pectoral) and Kurt Mann (head knock) have forced Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien to reshuffle his spine, with veteran playmaker Blake Green named to partner Connor Watson (16 carries for 153 metres) in the halves.
The reshuffle has made room for fresh faces on the Knights interchange, with Brodie Jones, Pasami Saulo and Chris Randall all named to fill the void.
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The Titans big guns have been firing with Tino Fa’asuamaleaui (20 carries for 201 metres), David Fifita (19 carries for 153 metres) and Moeaki Fotuaika (17 carries for 157 metres) all looking to consolidate on impressive recent outings.
Only completing at 68% in their last start, Holbrook’s men will be eager to improve on their completion rates in an attempt to score more points through their impressive outside backs, with AJ Brimson (20 carries for 162 metres) poised for a big game against first choice Maroon’s fullback Ponga.
Brimson ran rampant last time the two teams met in the final round of the regular season in 2020 when the Titans blew them off the park with a 36-6 victory.
The youngster scored an impressive double, sidestepping Ponga on his way to cross the line in a jaw dropping solo effort late in the game.
Meanwhile Knights coach Adam O’Brien will be hoping his forward pack can lay a good platform for his young backline, with David Klemmer (21 carries for 187 metres) named to start after being cleared of a serious knee injury.
Daniel Saifiti (18 carries for 150 metres) and Mitchell Barnett (17 carries for 121 metres) both impressed despite the loss, while centre Gehamat Shibasaki (1 try; 14 carries for 120 metres) will be eager to consolidate his recent return to form.
This afternoon’s clash shapes up as an intriguing battle of two young sides desperate to prove themselves as the real deal in the 2021 season campaign.
The Gold Coast side have found themselves undone by a couple of the heavyweights early in the season but they still have a squad that is firing on all cylinders, while the Newcastle Knights have proved in the past that they can adapt to injury.