No Ponga, no hope apparently.
The Knights are friendless in betting markets to beat the Sydney Roosters tonight at the Sydney Cricket Ground. So much so you can get 8-1 with Sportsbet. Handy odds in a two-horse race but no surprise given who coach Adam O'Brien is resting and the ominous form of the Sydney Roosters.
There's no Kalyn Ponga, Mitch Barnett or Hymel Hunt for Newcastle so it's going to be a huge challenge.
At the same time, it could also be a defining game for the Knights heading into their first finals campaign in seven years. A fair dinkum test of their mental strength.
If the Knights can hold their gloves up and compete for the full 80 minutes against the defending premiers, even if they come home without the points, it will give them enormous confidence heading into the big end-of-season games knowing the likes of Ponga, Barnett, Hunt and Bradman Best will all be back on deck.
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At the same time, to cave in and get a flogging, like the one they received last season from the Roosters at the same venue, could be demoralising.
O'Brien has rolled the dice but will be expecting his players to rise to the occasion without Ponga and co.
But you can bet he will be a little more nervous than usual as they run out.
Accolade for Guerra
More significant to the rebuild than Kalyn Ponga, Mitchell Pearce or David Klemmer! A big statement but that's former Knights coach Nathan Brown's take on the signing of Aidan Guerra, who is hanging up his boots at season's end.
Brown believes the club may not have snared Mitchell Pearce without Guerra's influence and he doubts Klemmer would have packed the family up and moved to Newcastle without Pearce getting in his ear.
When Guerra put pen to paper in mid-2017, he was an Origin player but still took a leap of faith to link with the Knights at a time when they were NRL easy-beats when his time at the Roosters was at an end.
"Getting him when we did was a big factor in others following,"Brown said.
In his first year in 2018, he was close to the Knights best player. He was on the outer last season with Brown after coming back from a serious leg injury but new coach Adam O'Brien had faith in him and he hasn't missed a game this season.
O'Brien probably came up with the best line about Guerra during the season when he said: "If you saw him in a saleyard, you probably wouldn't buy him but he's been really good for us."
After a great career, he deserves to go out on a high and you can bet his teammates will be striving that little bit harder now to make sure he does.
Veteran's next move
So what's in store for Guerra once the season is done and dusted and the boots are put away for good?
At this stage, he and his young family have no real plans to leave Newcastle but that could change down the track if some business opportunities demand it.
His wife Belinda owns a wine company which they are planning to start sinking some time into while he has also been working with a friend over the past six months to open up a pilates business on the Gold Coast.
"I'll not be just sitting stagnant, put it that way," he told us.
Getting in the queue
Sacked Broncos coach Anthony Seibold and former Sharks premiership winner Shane Flanagan will no doubt be linked to the Knights with current assistant David Furner now almost certain to return to Sydney for family reasons at the end of the season.
Seibold has already been touted as a potential replacement because he and Adam O'Brien are tight while Flanagan will be looking for a new gig after his departure from the Dragons.
Knights CEO Phil Gardner admits he is wary of potentially bringing Seibold to the club, believing he needs a break away from the game but could be persuaded otherwise if O'Brien believes he is the right man for the job.
Kalyn's tough new look
Kalyn Ponga may have a busted nose and been getting around all week with blackened eyes but there's no need to feel too sorry for him according to at least one Knights teammate.
"His face is all swollen and bruised but deep down, I don't think he minds it now," the teammate said. "He thinks he's tough. He thinks he's one of the forwards."
The ranks of the Knights' Old Boys will be cut in half thanks to COVID-19 when the Knights host St George Illawarra in the second last round at McDonald Jones Stadium next Sunday.
As many as 120 ex-players and officials normally make it back for the tradition final home game of the season but just 60 will be allowed in this year with no traditional lap of honour, tunnel for the players to run through or jersey presentations.
Meanwhile, we're told several Old Boys have kept in regular contact with former star Jarrod Mullen and have offered invitations for him to return to Newcastle for games and functions.
Jones' talks underway
The Knights are understood to be in the early stages of negotiations to re-sign young backrower Brodie Jones.
Jones, who made his NRL debut this season and has played six games off the bench for the club in the top grade, has just bought a house locally with his fiance.
Meanwhile, former Knights lower grader Brayden Musgrove, who is now playing with the Cessnock Goannas, is on the radar of the Canberra Raiders.
The Raiders have already taken a Knights discard in hooker Tom Starling and turned him into a starting first grader who is close to signing a new two year deal with the club.
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