Ponga unlikely to be fit for round one as O’Brien hunts new Knights captain

Knights coach Adam O'Brien says the Mitchell Pearce sexting scandal will not derail the club's season as they continue to sweat on the return of Kalyn Ponga.

O'Brien said he was "really pleased" with how the playing group had connected after the drama, which led to Pearce losing the Knights captaincy following revelations he sent racy text messages to a staff member and the postponement of his wedding.

Pearce said his actions had affected the team and he stood down as captain.

Kalyn Ponga is in doubt for the start of the season due to a shoulder injury.Credit:Getty

The camp will also be a chance for O'Brien to choose a new captain. David Klemmer is the hot favourite to take the job.

O'Brien said the Tamworth camp was "part of the process" of finding the most suitable player.

"It'll be a few weeks away yet [a decision on the captaincy], I want to go through a thorough process," he said.

"I didn't want the distraction to fasten that process up. I believe that it's the right process, even before Mitchell decided to stand down, so I'll continue on that path."

The focus has turned to Ponga, who is in doubt for the start of the season due to a shoulder injury.

Ponga had a shoulder reconstruction in October 2020 after playing through a labrum tear late in the season. The injury has a three- to six-month recovery time.

O'Brien said Ponga was working "extremely hard" to get fit and had a consultancy last week with a specialist.

"He's more than on track," the coach said. "We just want to continually see progress every day. And that's what we're getting."

Ponga is an unlikely starter for the 2021 season with no "definitive date" for his return.

"We don't expect it to be too long into the season," O'Brien said. "But I'm not going to put pressure on both staff and Kalyn by naming a date just yet."

Ponga's no.1 jersey will likely be replaced by 21-year-old Tex Hoy.

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