Danny Levi has been forced to bide his time in NSW Cup for the first month of the premiership with starting hooker Slade Griffin consistently among the Knights’ best performers.
But the Kiwi Test hooker is poised to finally get an opportunity in the top grade with Levi to come off the bench against the Brisbane Broncos at McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite being named in the number 20 jumper when the squad was announced on Tuesday by coach Nathan Brown, the Newcastle Herald understands Levi has been told his lower grade exile is over.
It is not clear just who he will replace on the bench but Brown will be hoping his spark around the ruck when he comes on against a tiring defence will open up the Broncos in the middle of the park.
In another significant change, winger Nathan Ross has been shifted into the centres to replace the injured Tautau Moga with Ken Sio promoted onto the wing.
The club’s worst fears were confirmed on Tuesday with Moga set to undergo a full knee reconstruction that will sideline him for between nine to 12 months after he lasted just four minutes in the loss to St George Illawarra on Easter Sunday.
Two other fringe players, Luke Yates and Jack Cogger, have been named in the 21-man squad and could come into contention for roles against the Broncos.
The decision to go with Ross ahead of Shaun Kenny-Dowall as Moga’s replacement was not unexpected.
It will mean less of a disruption to the backline with the combination of Kenny-Dowall and Sione Mata’utia retained on the right edge.
Ross said on Sunday after the loss to the Dragons he would put his hand up to play in the centres if required.
“I think I have played there five times in the NRL over the past couple of seasons and also played there for Brad Fittler in the City-Country Origin game last season in Mudgee,” he said.
“I’ll be putting my hand up if Browny is looking for someone.”
Under pressure to hold his place in the team only a week ago, Ross now finds himself marking one of the game’s most electrifying runners of the football in Broncos flying machine James Roberts.
Brisbane, still smarting after their upset defeat at home to Gold Coast Titans, have winger Corey Oates returning from a hip injury.
Coach Wayne Bennett has also named Tevita Pangai Jnr as 19th man with the skillful young prop rated a chance of returning from a hamstring strain.
Knights utility Jamie Buhrer took the early guilty plea on a high tackle charge and is free to play on Saturday.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.