Saifiti faces lengthy ban after reckless charge, Storm star out two months, Cowboys duo in strife

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Newcastle prop Jacob Saifiti is facing a ban of six weeks for his grade-three reckless high tackle for the high shot on Jake Simpkin which led to his send-off 15 minutes from full-time. 

He has been hit with a grade-three reckless charge and can get the ban reduced to five matches if he submits an early guilty plea.

Newcastle teammate Kalyn Ponga’s playing future is again under a cloud after he suffered another concussion but coach Adam O’Brien wouldn’t say if his captain would face more time on the sidelines.

Ponga, who has shifted to five-eighth after being given an extended break at the end of the 2022 campaign due to repeated concussions, lasted less than 90 seconds into Sunday’s meeting with Wests Tigers at Leichhardt Oval. 

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The Queenslander has now suffered four head knocks in the last 10 months but O’Brien wouldn’t say if his captain would face more time on the sidelines.

“I’ve seen him make that tackle 1000 times over the summer, so I’m not too concerned around that,” O’Brien said on Sunday night after the gritty 14-12 win. “It’s too early to say but we’ll just follow the protocols.

“We gave him the summer off, he had eight games off last season, he has some extended breaks.”

With a short turnaround leading into Friday’s home clash with the Dolphins, it’s all but certain that Ponga and co-captain Jayden Brailey (concussion) will be available. 

Veteran forward Tyson Frizell and fellow second-rower Jack Johns hobbled off with ankle injuries at Leichhardt.

O’Brien said Adam Elliott (groin) and Kurt Mann (calf) would be out at least a month, adding to the team’s long list of absentees. 

Cowboys duo Scott Drinkwater (3-4 matches for a shoulder charge) and Peta Hiku (2-3 matches) for a crusher tackle are likely to accept early guilty pleas on Monday. 

Broncos winger Corey Oates had surgery to repair the broken jaw from the Drinkwater hit and won’t return until May. 

(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Storm prop Nelson Asofa-Solomona is expected to be out 6-8 weeks after suffering a knee injury in the loss to Canterbury. 

Heading into round one, Melbourne had a third of their 30-man squad out injured, with star backs Cameron Munster and Xavier Coates also sidelined last weekend.

They still have Ryan Papenhuyzen, Justin Olam, George Jennings, Marion Seve, Tui Kamikamika and Tariq Sims missing.

Roosters hooker Brandon Smith (back) is in doubt for Friday’s grudge match with Souths while prop Jared Waerea-Hargreaves (back) and lock Victor Radley (concussion) are hopeful of making comebacks. 

The Roosters have added Eels forward Nathan Brown with the club set to announce his signing for the rest of the season after gaining a release from Parramatta. However, a hamstring concern means he is unlikely to suit up against Souths.

Joseph Suaali’i was charged with dangerous contact for a late hit on Charnze Nicoll-Klokstad but can pay a fine of $3000 instead of a two-game ban. 

Dolphins lock Tom Gilbert (dangerous contact) and Bulldogs forward Viliame Kikau (tripping)  are facing the same scenario. 

Due to a poor judiciary record, Dolphins hooker Jeremy Marshall-King cannot cop a fine for a hip drop tackle and faces a ban of 2-3 matches. 

Titans coach Justin Holbrook said hooker Sam Verrills did not suffer any serious damage when he picked up a shoulder injury against the Dragons on Sunday night while St George Illawarra debutant Toby Couchman (head knock) could make way for the returning Jack de Belin (calf) in Brisbane this Saturday. 

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