NRL 2 years ago

Panthers to blood two rookies for Knights

  • Panthers to blood two rookies for Knights

Penrith's injury crisis has forced coach Ivan Cleary to hand NRL debuts to young pair Sione Katoa and Chris Smith for Saturday's clash with Newcastle.

The duo is likely to replace halfback Jamie Soward (concussion) and second-rower Bryce Cartwright (kidney), both of whom were named in Cleary's side on Tuesday.

Their omissions bring the Panthers' casualty ward to a staggering 11 first-choice players.

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Katoa, 20, represented the Junior Kiwis over the past two years and is seen as the club's second-choice hooker once Apisai Koroisau departs for Manly.

Smith, 21, is a former Australian Schoolboys representative and played for the Panthers at this year's Auckland Nines tournament.

The 15th-placed Panthers battle the 16th-placed Knights in a match that is likely to decide this year's wooden spooners.

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