Kalyn Ponga of the Cowboys is tackled by Brendan Elliot of the Knights.
Kalyn Ponga of the Cowboys is tackled by Brendan Elliot of the Knights. MICHAEL CHAMBERS

Linnett dares Sharks to challenge young teammate

NORTH Queensland centre Kane Linnett has told Cronulla to kick it to teammate Kalyn Ponga at its own risk.

The 19-year-old Ponga will return to the Cowboys outfit for the first time since round nine on Saturday night. He will line up on the wing after playing six games earlier in the year at fullback.

Linnett has dared the Sharks to test out the talented youngster, who is bound for Newcastle next season.

"Hopefully they're going to give him a few kicks; he returns the ball really well and he can get us on the front foot," he said ahead of the clash at 1300SMILES Stadium.

"He brings that x-factor on the wing and we know what he can do with his footwork and hopefully he can get in the clear."

Ponga has been confined to playing in the Holden Cup by coach Paul Green, despite the Cowboys' injury list growing each week.

"He's been playing some good footy in the under-20s and knocking on the door and he's happy he's got an opportunity," Linnett said.

"He needs to be really good for us on the weekend."

Linnett will link with Javid Bowen in the centres, with Justin O'Neill facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines after suffering a nasty elbow injury last weekend. Playmaker Te Maire Martin (knee) and fullback Lachlan Coote (ankle) will both be given until game day to prove their fitness.

The Cowboys sit eighth, trailing the Panthers and Sea Eagles on points difference, and leading the ninth-placed Dragons by two points.