Jacob Saifiti set for long NRL ban after high tackle
Newcastle face a personnel shortage after State of Origin prop Jacob Saifiti was handed the most serious charge for a high tackle by the NRL in more than five years.
Saifiti was on Monday charged with a grade-three reckless high tackle, with the prop set to miss at least five NRL games for his high shot on Wests Tigers hooker Jake Simpkin.
It comes as the Knights count the cost of their win over the Tigers, with Kalyn Ponga and Jayden Brailey both set to miss Friday's clash with the Dolphins.
Tyson Frizell and Jack Johns have also been ruled out with ankle injuries, adding to the absences of Adam Elliott (groin) and Kurt Mann (calf).
Saifiti's charge is the first time the NRL have gone with the highest possible grading on a high tackle since Zane Tetevano in the final round of 2017.
On that occasion Tetevano was able to downgrade his to a careless high tackle charge, reducing his ban to one match.
The Knights are weighing up whether to risk a sixth match on the sidelines for Saifiti by trying to downgrade it to a shorter suspension.
Saifiti was sent off when he struck Simpkin in the head as he ran across the grain, prompting the Tigers hooker to fall to the ground, apparently unconscious.
Simpkin was eventually able to walk from the field for a head injury assessment and did not return, given the game had only 15 minutes to run - the time required for an HIA.
Newcastle did, at least, receive some good news on Monday with halfback Jackson Hastings able to take a fine for the high shot that broke Tommy Talau's nose.
Hastings attempted to apologise to Talau on field but the Tigers centre pushed him away, leading former Knight David Klemmer to join the fracas.
Security and Knights head of football Peter Parr moved in to separate the rival players, and Hastings has since opted to plea guilty.
Tigers second-rower Isaiah Papali'i is also facing a ban out of the match, for the dangerous contact that injured Johns' ankle in the first half.
Papali'i will miss one match with an early guilty plea, or two if he unsuccessfully fights the charge.
Meanwhile, North Queensland fullback Scott Drinkwater has accepted his three-match ban for the shoulder charge that left Corey Oates with a broken jaw.
Cowboys teammate Peta Hiku will also miss two matches after pleading guilty to a crusher tackle on Oates, leaving the Cowboys short on backline stocks for games against the Warriors and Canterbury.
Dolphins hooker Jeremy Marshall-King has also taken a two-match suspension for his hip-drop tackle on Canberra's Corey Horsburgh on Saturday.
Marshall-King will miss the Dolphins' clash with the Knights and the first Brisbane derby against the Broncos.