Little-known teenager Karmichael Hunt is expected to make his NRL debut
against the Warriors on the wing at Suncorp Stadium next Sunday . Hunt, who only
turned 17 last November, is considered by some at the Broncos to be a better
prospect than Justin Hodges was at his age. So impressed have club officials
been with the 2003 Junior Kangaroos fullback's pre-season form that they have
already begun moves to extend his contract, due to fears that rugby union may
Boom 18-year-old Sonny Bill Williams is set to make his NRL debut on
Saturday night against Parramatta, but it is unclear whether coach Steve Folkes
plans to use him in the forwards or at centre. With prop Mark O'Meley (eye),
centre Ben Harris (shoulder) and winger Matt Utai (suspension) all
unavailable, new recruits Willie Tonga and Jamaal Lolesi are also likely to be
new faces in the side.
Halfback Brad Drew is a strong chance of being fit for Sunday's match
against St George Illawarra at Kogarah Oval after being cleared of a serious
chest injury, but forwards Alan Tongue (lower leg) and Troy Thompson (neck)
remain in doubt. The Raiders yesterday attracted about 5000 fans to their
season launch at Canberra Stadium.
Test utility Phil Bailey is expected to start the season in the centres to
cover the unavailability of Nigel Vagana and Jason Kent due to injury. Paul
Gallen is the likely beneficiary of Bailey's move out wide and may be partnered
in the second row by new recruit Andrew Lomu .
Hooker Chad Randall (shoulder) and prop Jason King (knee) must pass fitness
tests before being considered for selection in Saturday night's match against
North Queensland. Neither has played during the pre-season after undergoing
surgery late last year.
New recruit Steve Turner 's hat-trick against Newtown on Saturday is
unlikely to win him a starting berth in the side to play Newcastle on March 21 .
``Steve was really good, he was great last week for our feeder club," said
coach Craig Bellamy on Saturday. ``He's getting close, he's a talented young
kid, trains extremely hard and he's got a great attitude. But I thought Billy
[Slater ] was great last week and didn't do much wrong today either."
Former Broncos lower grader David Seage is set to make his Knights debut
from the interchange bench against Penrith on Friday night. Seage was recruited
from Wynnum Manly as a back-up fullback to Robbie O'Davis but has impressed in
pre-season. Another new signing, Russell Richardson , will partner Matthew
Gidley in the centres, while Todd Lowrie is on standby should either Ben
Kennedy (ankle) or Matt Parsons (finger) fail fitness tests.
Lock Glenn Morrison is in doubt for Saturday night's clash with Manly.
Morrison received a knock to the shoulder last week against Newcastle. ``I'll
pick him and then we'll go through the medical clearance process," said coach
Graham Murray yesterday.
Giant prop Justin Tsoulos is unavailable for Saturday night's clash with
the Bulldogs after undergoing minor knee surgery, but Eels coach Brian Smith
still has another eight front-rowers to choose from not including captain
Nathan Cayless. With Chris Armit, Aaron Cannings, Corey Pearson, Adam Peek,
Craig Stapleton, Fui Fui Moi Moi and Mal Kaufusi all vying to partner Michael
Vella up front, Cayless will pack down alongside Nathan Hindmarsh in the second
Centre Ryan Girdler has been ruled out of the game against Newcastle on
Friday with a viral infection. Coach John Lang says Girdler is back at
training but definitely won't be playing against the Knights. Panthers officials
were gobsmacked by the roll-up to Thursday's season-ticket-holders' function at
Penrith Stadium as 3000 fans turned up.
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA
Prop Ashton Sims is still being troubled by an ankle injury and is in doubt
for Sunday's home match against Canberra, increasing Lance Thompson' s chances
of a recall to the top grade. Test prop Justin Ryles (shoulder) is aiming to
make his comeback in round 10. A Legends Walk at Kogarah Oval was opened on
Saturday, with 16 club greats inducted into a hall of fame.
Winger Luke MacDougall hopes to play outside elder brother Adam for the
first time in Sunday night's clash with the Roosters after recovering from
off-season groin surgery. Back-rower Justin Smith is also a chance of being
available for selection after missing the pre-season for the same reason, while
Terry Hill is racing the clock to overcome a knee infection.
Queensland Origin utility Chris Flannery will visit a specialist in the next
week to learn when he can make his comeback from shoulder surgery, but it is
expected to be within the next month. Flannery and Test centre Shannon Hegarty
(ankle) are the only members of last year's grand final side unavailable for
Sunday's match against Souths.
Stacey Jones is ready to lead the Warriors into his 10th premiership
campaign after proving he had recovered from groin and ankle surgery during a
tough pre-season training camp. Hooker Tavita Latu is due to return to full
training this week but Monty Betham is expected to wear the No.9 jersey against
Brisbane on Sunday. Kangaroos prop Richard Villasanti hopes to make his return
from a knee injury in round three.
Utility Ben Galea made his comeback from a knee injury in the opening round
of premier league at the weekend and will be considered for selection against
Cronulla next Saturday . The club is talking to Scotland international Andrew
Henderson, who played for Widnes at the World Sevens. Unavailable for Saturday's
match at Telstra Stadium due to injuries are Michael Buettner, Todd Payten,
Anthony Laffranchi and Pat Richards.