St George Illawarra halfback Benji Marshall is set to return for Thursday night’s must-win NRL clash with Penrith.
A hamstring injury kept Marshall out of the Dragons’ heavy defeat to Brisbane last start but the key playmaker trained solidly throughout the week and completed Wednesday’s captain’s run.
Provided he pulls up healthy on Thursday morning, the former New Zealand international will take his place in the line-up against the Panthers.
“He completed the full session and run at top speed. I haven’t looked at his GPS yet but, by the eye, he looks really good,” coach Paul McGregor said.
“Usually, when you’ve done your back or hamstring, it’s the next morning that could give you a bit of grief, so we’ll just see in the morning.
“But the way they finished off training then, there’ll be no problem.”
McGregor has copped some criticism this week for starting with forward Jack de Belin ahead of rookie halfback Drew Hutchinson against the Broncos.
However, the second-year coach again defended his decision to shield Hutchinson until the second half.
“I had four players that had less than 100 games between them,” he said.
“To put a kid into that environment, in front of 35,000 people, another inexperienced player on the field … I don’t think I’ve done the wrong thing.”
With three games remaining in the regular season, the 8th-placed Dragons need to keep winning to stave off a hot Manly side, equal on 24 points but trailing on for-and-against and waiting for the Red V to stumble.
McGregor said the team were well aware of their predicament and prepared for a Penrith side who had nothing to lose.
“We need to win two of the three and possibly three,” McGregor said.
In an added boost, veteran winger Jason Nightingale, who has been out since round 21 with an ankle injury, is on track for a return in the final game of the year.
STATS THAT MATTER:
* The Dragons have lost their past five against Penrith, the only team they have failed to defeat since 2012
* Penrith’s win in Wollongong last year was just their second at WIN Stadium in more than 20 years
* Tyrone Peachey’s five line breaks against the Warriors last week was the first time a player had achieved the feat since Melbourne’s Will Chambers in round 24, 2014