Knights coach Adam O'Brien has surprisingly resisted the temptation to wield the axe to shake up his under-performing squad in the wake of his side's meek surrender to the Sydney Roosters last weekend.
But it's unlikely he will be as generous and understanding if he doesn't get a significant response from his under-fire team against an equally-desperate Canberra Raiders in Wagga on Saturday with a number of players believed to be notice.
Despite a 38-4 caning from the Roosters and losing five of their past six matches, O'Brien has made just two changes to his starting side with 20-year-old playmaker Phoenix Crossland to wear the No.7 jersey for the first time in the NRL while Hymel Hunt returns from a hamstring strain that has kept him out of the Knights' past two defeats.
Crossland comes in for veteran halfback Blake Green, who is nursing a cracked rib that's expected to sideline him for a couple of weeks courtesy of a late tackle by Roosters winger Matt Ikuvalu in the second half last weekend.
A former NSW Blues junior halfback, it will be Crossland's ninth NRL game but just his second this season and only his second starting appearance.
He played five-eighth outside Pearce in the absence of Kurt Mann when the Knights beat the Warriors back in round 2 before being suspended and also injured.
His other seven games in the top grade have come off the bench and largely as a make-shift back-up hooker last season.
Off contract at the end of the season, Crossland won't get a better chance to audition for a new deal with O'Brien confident he will grab his opportunity.
"He's in his favoured position, he won't shirk the work-load in defence and he has a really good long kicking game," O'Brien said. "So I'm confident in what he will bring provided he gets the support he should get around him."
Hunt's inclusion comes at the expense of Starford To'a.
In a body blow for the Knights, the widely-expected return of Hunt's regular wing partner Edrick Lee didn't eventuate.
Lee hasn't played since breaking his foot at pre-season training in January and was considered a chance of returning against the Roosters last week before being given a further week off.
O'Brien expected to have Lee available for selection on Tuesday but the decision was made to further delay his comeback after he struggled with his fitness at training.
"He's just short of a run so we'll give him another week," O'Brien said.
While he hasn't been named in the top 17, backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon may yet feature on game day.
Fitzgibbon will be pushing for a place in the squad and could even find himself in the starting side after getting through a full 80 minutes last weekend in NSW Cup on his return from a pre-season shoulder reconstruction.
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