Newcastle have received a fillip to their fast-dwindling NRL top eight hopes with big guns Jarrod Mullen, Jeremy Smith and Kade Snowden all expected to return against Canberra on Friday night.
Mullen has been frustrated at being sidelined for 10 weeks by a seemingly innocuous foot injury.
The five-eighth has been struggling to recover from a fractured sesamoid in his right foot – a bone about the size of a fingernail underneath the big toe.
He failed in his attempt to make a comeback against Brisbane before the last round bye and admitted it was getting to the stage where he could be ruled out for the rest of the season.
The injury will likely require surgery and he said if he failed to return successfully against the Raiders he could opt to go under the knife now rather than the end of the year.
“This is the last roll of the dice and I don’t want to keep dragging it on because it probably does need surgery at the end of the year,” Mullen said.
“If I can push on until the end of the year and get it done then, that’s the best case scenario.”
The Knights are in desperate need of Mullen’s influence, having lost 10 or their last 11 matches, with their only win in that period coming against the last-placed Wests Tigers.
“(My toe) is feeling a lot better than what it did two weeks ago when I tried to play against Brisbane,” Mullen said.
“It’s still a day by day thing but I’ve been named and I expect to play.”
Experienced hardman Smith will be a valuable addition to the Knights pack having not played since round 10 because of a fractured sternum.
Prop Snowden sat out the team’s 44-22 loss to Brisbane a fortnight ago because of suspension.