NRL | The Knights are set to finish the season among the NRL also-rans after having their premiership campaign largely hi-jacked by injury

Heartbreak for Mitchell Pearce in Tamworth.
Heartbreak for Mitchell Pearce in Tamworth.

It’s the telling statistic that lays bare why the Newcastle Knights are not in finals contention and will finish among the NRL also-rans in 2018.

Six of the club’s high profile recruits, brought in this season to bolster a wooden spoon roster, have missed a staggering 46 games between them through injury heading into Saturday’s clash with the Penrith Panthers.

The club’s shocking injury run, which has claimed outside back Nathan Ross as its latest victim, has meant coach Nathan Brown has been forced to use a total of 28 players over the course of the season.

Strike centre Tautau Moga heads the list of new recruit casualties, having missed 17 games since suffering a season-ending knee injury in round four against St George Illawarra in Wollongong.

Even more crucial was the nine games co-captain and chief playmaker Mitchell Pearce was sidelined for after he ripped his pectoral muscle off the bone against the Wests Tigers in Tamworth in round 7.

Five-eighth Connor Watson [7 games], prop Jacob Lillyman [6], hooker Slade Griffin [5] and fullback Kalyn Ponga [2] have also been sidelined at various times with Griffin unlikely to be back on the field before the middle of next season after tearing the ACL in his knee for a fourth time in the Knights’ round 16 loss to the Bulldogs.

Significantly, Pearce, Watson and Ponga, the Knights most potent attacking strike force, have been on the field together for just 176 minutes over the course of the entire season.

The trio played the opening two games against Manly and Canberra which the Knights won before Watson was injured in round 3 against the Roosters.

They have not been on the field together since.

Tautau Moga ruptures his ACL in the process of scoring a try against the Dragons.

Tautau Moga ruptures his ACL in the process of scoring a try against the Dragons.

Ironically, the club’s three other new recruits this season, Aidan Guerra, Herman Ese’ese and Chris Heighington have missed just three games between them.

Guerra and winger Shaun Kenny-Dowall are the only players to have played all 21 games while Ese’ese has missed just one through suspension.

The retiring Heighington, the second oldest player in the NRL behind Cronulla’s Paul Gallen, was expected to be rested at regular intervals throughout the season but has featured in all but two games, mainly due to the club’s injury dramas.

The injury curse hasn’t just been confined to new recruits.

Ross has missed six matches including the past two and is highly unlikely to play again this season because of a groin and pelvis issue that he has carried for a big part of the season.

Another player who will look back on 2018 as a write-off will be towering prop Jacob Saifiti.

A devastated Slade Griffin is helped from the field.

A devastated Slade Griffin is helped from the field.

After starting the year in NSW Cup, he fought his way into the top grade but appears set to end the season with just eight NRL appearances to his name, mainly due to a severe shoulder injury suffered against the Titans back in May.

That’s in contrast to the 39 games he played at NRL level during the preceding two seasons.

While the Knights appear certain to avoid a fourth straight wooden spoon, a win over Penrith would definitely rule it out.

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This story The horror injury statistic that has cruelled the Knights season first appeared on Newcastle Herald.