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Knights star Gagai avoids ban after giving referee a verbal spray

By AAP
(Photo by Ashley Feder/Getty Images)

Dane Gagai has avoided an NRL ban after the match review committee found the Newcastle star did not question the integrity of officials when he swore at them in Friday night’s loss to the Sydney Roosters.

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Fresh off another horror night in Newcastle, the Knights at least woke to good news on Saturday with Gagai not even charged for a tirade at referee Peter Gough.

Initially sin-binned on-field, there had been thoughts that Gagai could cop a suspension similar to the three-match ban handed to Melbourne utility Brandon Smith earlier this month.

But while in that instance Smith labelled Adam Gee a “cheating bastard”, AAP understands Gagai was only guilty of repetitive foul language and therefore not charged.

The news comes as some relief to Newcastle officials who are already pondering how to deal with Kalyn Ponga’s third concussion in six weeks.

Ponga was felled by a Matthew Lodge high shot, with the low-impact nature of the hit raising concerns from the likes of Knights legend Andrew Johns.

The incident came after he first suffered a concussion against Penrith early last month, before being ruled out for a week after another head knock in Origin.

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Ponga will visit a brain injury specialist in Dr Chris Levi at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle this week, as the club attempt to work out how to best deal with the incident.

Queensland teammate Christian Welch has already called for the Knights to rest Ponga for the remainder of the season, with their finals hopes officially over.

“You have to look at him as an investment and as an asset,” Welch, who is a director on the Rugby League Players Association board, said on Triple M.

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“I don’t know the severity of the head knock … but if you’re not going to play finals what are you going to gain.

“If you have a long-term view of him … I would be shutting him down.”

But coach Adam O’Brien said on Friday night it was too early to speculate on if Ponga could be ruled out for the season.

“We’ll go through the process the week, he’s had a couple,” O’Brien said.

“But I am more concerned with how upset he is at the moment. He’s pretty emotional and feels like he’s left everyone down.

“It’s too premature for me to comment too much (on how we manage it). We’ll send him to the people who know a lot more than me.”

Back-rower Lachlan Fitzgibbon is also unlikely to face Canterbury next Sunday, after suffering a shoulder injury.

But O’Brien said he would not begin experimenting for 2023 by bringing young players in despite the finals no longer being in reach with a 5-13 record.

“I won’t do it just because the season is gone … you’re just handing the jersey to blokes who haven’t earned it,” he said.

“You just cheapen the jersey I think. But there’s no doubt there’s guys in there that probably need to feel what it’s like to lose one.”

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