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Hodkinson no certainty for Knights return

NZN 22/04/2017 Rohan O'Neil

Newcastle coach Nathan Brown would not be drawn on the future of dropped halfback Trent Hodkinson in the aftermath of the Knights' NRL loss to North Queensland.

The former NSW No.7 was told he wasn't needed for the club's trip to Townsville on Saturday night, with Brown selecting second-rower Sione Mata'utia at halfback before bringing 22-year-old utility Jaelen Feeney into the role later in the game.

Brown's radical change appeared to work as the Knights skipped to a 12-10 halftime lead but Hodkinson's experience was missed in the second half as Newcastle slipped to a 24-14 defeat and a sixth straight loss for 2017.

Brown says he and his coaching staff would have an in-depth look at the Knights' efforts before making a call on whether the out-of-favour pivot will feature in round nine against the Titans.

"Like every week we will review the game and go from there," Brown said.

"We will work through a few things and we wanted to have a look at some things tonight.

"Lamby (Knights five-eighth Brock Lamb) obviously had a tough night but he's had his good days and his days where he's not so good.

"He's a 19-year-old half so he's obviously got a lot of things to look at in his game at the minute

"The thing with Sione starting and then Jaelen coming on around half time was looking really good and it would've been great if we could've had a lot more field position.

"We'll just have a look in our review and see where we go."

While Brown played a straight bat on Hodkinson, it is believed the 28-year-old is surplus to requirements at Newcastle as the club chase a big-name free agent to accelerate their rebuilding period.

Brown lauded his side's impressive first-half display and that wasn't the only highlight for him, with Knights-bound Cowboys teenager Kalyn Ponga scoring twice and earning man-of-the-match honours.

An injury to first-choice fullback Lachlan Coote has opened the door for Ponga to play extended minutes for North Queensland this season and Brown was thrilled to see the young star get more opportunities at the top level.

"It's quite clear why we targeted Kalyn and it's quite clear what he's going to bring to our club," he said.

"He came up with a couple of special plays and it's great to see him get the chance to play from our point of view.

"Obviously for the Cowboys they'd be pretty happy with how he went too."

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