Newcastle Knights welcome back Kalyn Ponga for Cronulla showdown

Michael Holland
Kalyn Ponga Newcastle Knights PA

Newcastle will welcome back Kalyn Ponga and Brodie Jones when they take on the Cronulla Sharks on Friday.

Star fullback Ponga has been struggling with a minor knee injury but is now ready to return. Ponga was close to featuring against Penrith last week but the game came a touch to soon.

Newcastle coach Adam O’Brien says it was the right call to give him an extra week to recover. Speaking to the media pre-match O’Brien says Ponga is fit and raring to go.

“He is really good, ” O’Brien said when asked how Ponga is travelling. “Last week he was close but just not close enough for my liking. But he is good to go and has trained really well. It’s good to have him back on deck.”

Newcastle braced for tough conditions

Ponga could be in for a tough night with gale-force winds and storms predicted to hit. But O’Brien is not concerned and believes the conditions will suit his player.

“I think it will suit him,” O’Brien added. “He is hard to handle so we have to make sure we are getting him some ball. The elements will play a big part in the game. But we have prepared for that all week and we have come up with a style that we think will suit us and the conditions.”

Meanwhile Jones also makes his first start of the season. The second-rower has overcome Covid-19 and a thigh injury and will take his place in the side. He will replace Mitch Barnett who has just copped a six-match ban.

“The great thing about Brodie is he always looks after himself,” he added. “He is only a young guy but he is very professional. He is itching to get back and play.”

Hynes a threat

The Knights are up against a Sharks side that have won their last two games. Nicho Hynes is shining in the halves since arriving from Melbourne Storm and O’Brien is aware of the danger.

“With the ball they are very dangerous,” O’Brien said. “They have got a spine that like to run the ball and I expect them to run the ball in the conditions. We have to make sure we are applying enough pressure to those spine players. Their halves are always on the front foot so it will be a really good test.”

The trip to Shark Park will also be an extra special occasion for Tyson Frizell. He began his career with Cronulla and will make his 200th NRL appearance on Friday.