THE Newcastle Knights received a massive boost on Friday night when the Panthers decided to rest their entire State of Origin contingent for Saturday's clash at Penrith Stadium.
After Queensland's series-clinching 32-6 triumph at Suncorp Stadium on Wednesday, Penrith coach Ivan Cleary has omitted NSW representatives Isaah Yeo, Jarome Luai, Stephen Crichton, Brian To'o and Liam Martin.
Playmaker Nathan Cleary is also unavailable after tearing his hamstring recently.
When asked earlier in the week whether he would consider leaving out his Origin players, coach Cleary replied that he hoped they would be available.
"We've got a plan and there's some contingencies around that ... you have an initial plan and then make adjustments as we go along," he said.
In their absence, Tyrone Peachey will play centre, rookie Tom Jenkins is on the wing, Jaeman Salmon will fill in at five-eighth, ex-Knight Zac Hosking comes into the back row and Matt Eisenhuth replaces Yeo at lock.
The Panthers will be captained by fullback Dylan Edwards.
The mass withdrawals should only enhance Newcastle's chances of returning from the foot of the Blue Mountains with a win that would keep their slim play-off hopes flickering.
"We're well within reach of playing finals still," Knights coach Adam O'Brien said yesterday.
"There's no one talking like we can't ... the season is still within our control."
In contrast to Penrith, O'Brien said Knights back-rower Tyson Frizell would back up after Origin II.
Newcastle will also welcome back prop Daniel Saifiti from injury.
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