Dobson in doubt for NSW Cup grand final

INJURY CLOUD: Michael Dobson may miss NSW Cup grand final. Picture: Jonathan CarrollDEPARTING Knights halfback Michael Dobson is struggling with a toe injury and is in doubt for the NSW Cup grand final against Penrith at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.

Dobson, who will return to the English Super League next season after signing a four-year deal with Salford Reds, has been named in a 19-man Newcastle squad but is unlikely to train with the team all week and will be assessed before they leave for Sydney on Saturday.

The 28-year-old playmaker has played an integral role in Newcastle’s charge to the NSW Cup decider in the second half of the season and was instrumental in their 34-10 win over Illawarra Cutters in the second preliminary final at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

Dobson was replaced in the 69th minute, and coach Rick Stone said he would have scans this week to determine the extent of his big-toe injury.

Neither Stone nor Knights high-performance manager Jeremy Hickmans could be contacted yesterday for comment, but the club issued a statement which said Dobson would have to pass a fitness test to take his place against the minor premiers.

Utility Tyler Randell, who has played in the halves among several positions this season, was named on a six-man bench and would be one of the contenders to partner five-eighth Matt Minto on Sunday if Dobson was ruled out.

Stone retained the same 17-man squad that accounted for the Cutters but included James Elias and Toka Likiliki on an extended bench.

Panthers coach Garth Brennan could be without former Knights Kevin Naiqama and Sam Anderson, whom Ivan Cleary named on a six-man bench for Penrith’s NRL preliminary final against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Saturday night.

The Knights and Panthers split their meetings during the year but have not played each other for four months.

Newcastle won 24-14 at Penrith in the opening round and the Panthers returned serve with a 38-16 victory at Cessnock on May 10.

The grand final is scheduled for a 3.10pm kick-off.

Knights: Nathan Ross, Josh Mantellato, Brayden Wiliame, Pat Mata’utia, Chanel Mata’utia, Matt Minto, Michael Dobson, Sam Mataora, Chad Redman, Pat Vaivai, Clint Newton, Timana Tahu, Matt Hilder (c). Bench: Travis Waddell, Tyler Randell, Michael Steele, Brenton Horwood, James Elias, Toka Likiliki (two to be omitted).

Panthers: Kieren Moss, Eto Nabuli, Waqa Blake, Wes Naiqama, Tom Eisenhuth, Luke Capewell, Tom Humble, Leilani Latu, Kevin Kingston, Regan Campbell-Gillard, Isaah Yeo, Nathan Smith, Ryan Simpkins. Bench: Vaipuna Tia Kilifi, Kierran Moseley, Andy Saunders, Daniel Foster, Liam Ayoub (one to be omitted).