Over the next three weeks either side of Origin III, the Knights take on the Eels, Raiders and Sea Eagles before talk of Ponga’s potential return to the side will begin to gain traction.

Ponga underwent scans on Monday morning on the foot injury he suffered in Newcastle’s loss to the Canterbury Bulldogs on Sunday afternoon. He has been diagnosed with a Lisfranc rupture, which occurs when the metatarsal bones in the foot are damaged.

Kalyn Ponga hurt himself in Newcastle’s loss to the Bulldogs on Sunday.

Kalyn Ponga hurt himself in Newcastle’s loss to the Bulldogs on Sunday.Credit: NRL Photos

The Knights feared surgery would rule him out for the rest of the season, however the club’s medical staff hope the No.1 will be back in three months. He will see a specialist during the next 24 hours before going under the knife.

Of more pressing concern for O’Brien will be who wears the No.1 jersey in Ponga’s absence.

Veteran Dane Gagai, who missed the game against the Bulldogs with a calf injury, rookie David Armstrong and Super League recruit Will Pryce will all come into calculation.

Young gun Fletcher Sharpe would have come into contention but for an injury that has sidelined him in recent weeks.

What is a Lisfranc injury?

Lisfranc injuries are broken bones or torn ligaments in the midfoot region. The severity of a Lisfranc injury can vary widely — from a simple injury involving one midfoot joint to a complex injury involving many midfoot joints and broken bones.

Midfoot fracture dislocations and ruptures are named after French surgeon Jacques Lisfranc de St Martin, who served in the Napoleonic army in the 1800s and observed midfoot injuries in cavalry soldiers.

The injury is also a huge blow for Queensland coach Billy Slater, who is still reeling from the season-ending ACL injury to enforcer Tino Fa’asuamaleaui.

“It’s a blow for Kalyn,” Slater told this masthead. “With all the long-term injuries that have happened this year – Tino, Tom Gilbert and now Kalyn – I feel for the player. I know how hard they work and I know the desire they have to play in this team and be part of this team.

“I know how disappointed Kalyn was last year when he wasn’t fit enough to play at the start of the series. It’s a tough old game and I’ve been in this situation myself. I feel for him.”

Slater selects his State of Origin team in five weeks and has given very little away in the selection debate between Ponga and Reece Walsh at fullback for the Maroons. The injury has all but made the decision for him.

Billy Slater gives Kalyn Ponga some pointers in Maroons camp in 2019.

Billy Slater gives Kalyn Ponga some pointers in Maroons camp in 2019. Credit: Getty

The injury to Ponga has highlighted his reluctance to delve into team selections well in advance of picking the team for the opening game of the series at Accor Stadium on June 5.

“That’s why you don’t express your feelings or what your plans are,” Slater said.

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“Your plans are very loose because of what can happen. It’s a big reason why I just sit back, watch and wait. Watching is a big part of my role in the first 12 rounds.

“Watching the habits of players and they dictate what the teams look like. They know the standards created from this footy team in the last two series. My job is to assess those performances and decide from there.”

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