Brock Lamb’sprodigious right boot and his goal-kicking havewon him arecall forthe Newcastle Knights as they preparefor Friday night’s clash with Penrithat McDonald Jones Stadium.
But Knights coach Nathan Brown is hoping the addedresponsibility of running the team from halfback in the absence of Mitchell Pearce will bring out the best in the young playmaker after he was dumped to NSW Cup three weeks ago.
In one of the biggest team shake-ups since Brown took over as coach at the club, four players have been axed from the side who suffered a 36-18 loss to South Sydney last weekend.
Gone are halfback Jack Cogger, prop Jacob Lillyman and interchange forwards Jamie Buhrer and Jacob Saifiti.
Coming into the 17 are Lamb, bench hooker Danny Levi and forwards Josh King and Luke Yates.
Buhrer, who is the club’s co-captain, will get a reprieve for the Panthers’game if in-form backrower Lachlan Fitzgibbon fails to overcome a hamstring injury in time.
Fitzgibbon did not train with the squad on Tuesday but Brown remains hopeful he will be cleared to play.
Brown said Levi, King and Yates had all earned their call-ups with Yates featuring in the side’s last two wins before missingthe Souths game while Levi and King’s form in NSW Cup last Saturday clinched them their spots.
Lambs’ selection has come more out of necessity than form with the playmaker struggling with a hip-flexor problem over the past fortnight.
But his general play kicking game and his goal-kicking, two areas the side has really struggled with over the past few weeks, virtually demanded he be chosen.
“The natural things that Brock does really well are really important to our team and you have to have someone who can kick the ball,” Brown said.
“Cogs [Jack Cogger] is a little bit unlucky but without Mitchell, we certainly suffered with our kicking game.
“Brock kicks the ball very well and Connor,since coming back, has been really good.
“Jackhelped us win a few gamesbut with the need to kick the ball well and Brock is a goal-kicker as well, he’sgot some strings to his bow that will certainly help us improve.
“He’s had a couple of games of reserve grade and didn’t play too bad.”
WhileLamb’sform playing a second fiddle role to Pearce in the halves earlier in the season wasn’t anything to write home about and led to his axing, the hope in the Knights camp is he will rise to the occasion like he did late last season with the added responsibility of steering the ship around from halfback.
Brown admittedthe over-all performance against the Rabbitohs was partly the reason for the changes along with the form of the players coming in.
“We’ve had a few blokes who havebeen knocking on the door for a while,” he said.
“Yates obviously played in the last two wins we had andKingy has been 18thman for any number of weeks and his form in the reserve grade has been very good,” Brown said.
“Dannywas very good in reserve grade at the weekend.
“Theyare all blokes who we think can certainly help the team.”