Newcastle Knights coach Adam O’Brien has said he will struggle to name a 21-man squad on Tuesday after a growing injury list, which has only worsened during his squad. 22-13 loss against the Dragons.
Heading into today’s clash, the Knights were already without a number of regular freshmen, including star fullback Kalyn Ponga (shoulder), demolition center Bradman Best (elbow ), rear rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon (shoulder) and winger Edrick Lee (foot).
Making matters worse for Newcastle coach, star half-back Mitchell Pearce could be sidelined for an extended period after suffering a pectoral injury, while Tex Hoy (hamstrings) and Kurt Mann (concussion) also fell. The club also lost young weapons center Dominic Young earlier, who played in reserve rank.
When asked how he plans to prepare a squad for Tuesday’s weekly 21-man squad announcement, O’Brien admitted it would be a “big hurdle” as his club now brace for a clash with the Titans on Saturday.
“I don’t think I can name 21,” he told reporters after the game.
“We lost young Dom in the reserve class today. Naming the team will be a big obstacle this week.”
To help teams struggling with match day injuries, the NRL earlier in the week revealed that a The 18th player would be added to matchday squads from the fifth round after the ARL Commission has approved a modification of the playing conditions.
The 18th man will be used as a concussion substitute, but can only be called up if three of his teammates fail a head injury assessment.
Asked about the introduction of the 18th man, O’Brien challenged the NRL to start “listening” and “talking” more to the players.
“I wasn’t sure about the HIAs… I’m on the other side tonight,” he said.
Pearce in agony after injury
“I probably didn’t think that way earlier, and you can’t judge everything from one incident.
“The only thing I know (is) we have to start listening to our players, we have to start talking to them.
“They’re the ones who go through it there, so that’s all I would say. I do it a lot, asking them how they feel there and what the game is like.”
“Whether it’s the 18th man or not… I don’t know.
“(The rule) probably seems rushed at the moment … I can’t figure it out at the moment.
“I’m going to base everything on what just happened to our team, so I don’t want to make any weird comments and I haven’t given it much thought.”