No reward for playing through with fractured jaw
Sione Mata'utia persevered with a suspected fractured jaw to contribute to Newcastle's match-winning, last-gasp try against the Melbourne Storm on Saturday, and now he has to put on a brave face following his return to under-20s duty.
Although Mata'utai's determination to play on for the final 30 minutes at Hunter Stadium despite taking a nasty blow on the face was lauded, the 18-year-old was a logical demotion to accommodate the return of five-eighth Jarrod Mullen for Sunday's NRL clash with the Warriors in Newcastle.
Kurt Gidley, who was originally named at fullback before an abdominal strain forced Mullen to pull out of the stunning 32-30 comeback victory over the Storm, returned to the custodian role Mata-utia took on successfully at short notice.
In another boost for a Knights side already out of finals contention with four rounds of the regular season remaining, NSW State of Origin back rower Beau Scott returned to the pack after missing the Storm game due to a head knock.
Robbie Rochow maintained his spot alongside Scott and Kiwis international Jeremy Smith after passing a concussion test required after he was dazed during last weekend's thriller.
Meanwhile, Chris Houston dropped to an extended bench to accommodate Scott's return and may not feature after being named as 18th man.
Brisbane Broncos-bound coach Wayne Bennett has also made a change at hooker where Adam Clydesdale would start ahead of Travis Waddell.
While Scott was a welcome return, the 14th-placed Knights, NSW wing James McManus was nursing a season-ending toe injury while Kangaroos and Queensland outside back Darius Boyd remained unavailable three weeks after checking himself into a mental health facility to seek treatment for depression.
Newcastle Knights: Kurt Gidley, Chanel Mata'utia, Dane Gagai, Joey Leilua, Akuila Uate, Jarrod Mullen, Tyrone Roberts, Kade Snowden, Adam Clydesdale, Willie Mason, Beau Scott, Robbie Rochow, Jeremy Smith. Interchange: Travis Waddell, Korbin Sims, Adam Cuthbertson, David Fa'aogo, Chris Houston (18th man).