Mc­Don­nell set to fill in for in­jured play­maker

Townsville Bulletin - - Game On - by Antony Ste­wart antony. ste­wart@ townsville­bul­letin. com. au

THE boots he’ll be fill­ing are enor­mous, but Knights coach Rick Stone is con­fi­dent Shan­non Mc­Don­nell is up to the task.

New­cas­tle have re­ceived a ma­jor blow ahead of to­mor­row’s NRL clash with the Cow­boys, with skip­per and star rep­re­sen­ta­tive player Kurt Gi­d­ley ruled out with a back in­jury sus­tained in round one.

While cleared of se­ri­ous dam­age, the in­jury was still con­sid­ered bad enough to put him on the side­line for at least a week.

He joins fel­low Knights guns Neville Costi­gan ( bro­ken arm) and Isaac De Gois ( bro­ken thumb) as in­jury omis­sions.

But while ob­vi­ously dis­ap­pointed to lose Gi­d­ley, Stone said he had the ut­most faith in for­mer Wests Tiger Mc­Don­nell.

‘‘ It’s some big shoes for us, we un­der­stand that, but there’s no doubt he’s keen and his trial form’s been good,’’ he said.

‘‘ He played plenty of tri­als for us and he did a good job, so there’s prob­a­bly a lit­tle bit more em­pha­sis to go on Jar­rod ( half­back Mullen) – and he’ll prob­a­bly cap­tain the side in Kurt’s ab­sence.

‘‘ But the way he con­trolled the game and kicked and looked af­ter our team last week, I was re­ally im­pressed.’’

Hooker Matt Hilder has been pro­moted for De Gois and sec­ond rower Cameron Ci­raldo for Costi­gan as the Knights’ other changes from the team that thrashed Pen­rith 42-8 to kick-start their cam­paign.

Stone said he was ex­pect­ing a far sterner test against a Cow­boys side high on con­fi­dence af­ter their win over Bris­bane.

‘‘ Play­ing the Cow­boys up there is al­ways a tough gig. I like the look of the seven, one and the nine from last week – Thurston, Bowen and Payne – it looked like they had their old strike com­bi­na­tion back,’’ he said.

‘‘ They’re def­i­nitely go­ing to trou­ble us, that’s for sure, they’ve got plenty of op­tions there and we’ll have to be on our game to shut down those blokes in par­tic­u­lar, but there’s plenty of other play­ers go­ing well for the Cows.’’

The Knights ar­rive in Townsville this af­ter­noon and will have a be­hind-closed­doors train­ing hit-out in an at­tempt to ac­cli­ma­tise to the hu­mid con­di­tions ex­pected to con­front them at Dairy Farm­ers Sta­dium to­mor­row night.

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