Knights coach Adam O'Brien has dismissed criticism of his decision not to dump under-fire Gehamat Shibasaki for tomorrow's Easter Sunday clash with the Dragons after his error-prone performance in the loss to Wests Tigers.
Shibasaki struggled under the high ball in the unfamiliar position of winger last Sunday with a mistake in the final minutes opening the door for the Tigers to score the match-winning try.
But rather than relegate Shibasaki following the return of winger Starford To'a from injury, O'Brien has backed the 23-year-old to the hilt by naming him at centre for the Dragons game. And the playing group is right behind the decision.
"Absolutely Geham's got my support and he's got the support of all the boys," O'Brien said. "The senior players wanted him in there. The leadership group, in particular, was very strong on it because of what he did in the centres for us last year.
"Everyone deserves another opportunity. He's a good centre but we had no option last weekend and he was in a position that was foreign to him.
"At the end of the day, in any work environment, you are entitled to have an off-day and not expect to be given the sack. You never get the best out of people doing that and I'm really confident in what he will bring for us on Sunday."
Knights prop David Klemmer said he felt for Shibasaki after the Tigers game.
"He had one of those days we've all had at some stage but he'll bounce back,"Klemmer said. "I sent him a message on Sunday night and we're all supportive - no-one is perfect."
The Knights have been boosted with in-doubt forwards Mitch Barnett and Jacob Saifiti both running on Thursday at training and on target to play against the Dragons at McDonald Jones Stadium. They will both need to get through today's captain's run but O'Brien is confident they will be cleared.
"They got through some running yesterday and are looking very likely," he said. "Hopefully, we will be one to 17 which would be good for a change."
The Dragons, coming off two straight wins, will be without injured halfback Ben Hunt and the suspended Jack Bird. They boast a great record in Newcastle, having won 17 of 22 games on the Knights home ground but they are coming off a big loss last season.
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