Bron­cos flirt with Thai­day as hooker

Townsville Bulletin - - SPORT - TRAVIS MEYN PAUL MALONE

THE NRL could still fine Dragons coach Paul Mc­Gre­gor for blast­ing match of­fi­cials as “em­bar­rass­ing” and “in­com­pe­tent” fol­low­ing his side’s shock loss to New­cas­tle.

Mc­Gre­gor didn’t hide his dis­ap­point­ment about two con­tentious calls af­ter the eighth- placed Dragons fell to the bot­tom- placed Knights on Satur­day. In the first half the ref­er­ees bunker ruled Ja­son Nightin­gale knocked the ball for­ward in the lead- up to a po­ten­tial try to Tim Lafai, while Tyson Frizell was pe­nalised for hold­ing back Trent Hod­kin­son be­fore a run­away four- pointer to Nene Macdonald.

Mc­Gre­gor is ex­pected to meet with ref­er­ees boss Tony Archer in the com­ing days. NRL ref­er­ees boss Tony Archer has de­fended his of­fi­cial’s de­ci­sion not to stop play when a con­cussed Adam Reynolds was down dur­ing South Syd­ney’s loss to Can­berra.

Reynolds was floored by an ap­par­ent high shot from Raiders hooker Josh Hodgson in the sec­ond half on Satur­day, but the ref­eree ruled play on.

Rab­bitohs team­mate An­gus Crich­ton was sub­se­quently sin­binned for a pro­fes­sional foul af­ter a re­sult­ing line break.

Archer in­sisted the cor­rect pro­to­cols were fol­lowed to en­sure the wel­fare of in­jured play­ers. “Af­ter re­view­ing the specifics of this in­ci­dent, my view is th­ese pro­to­cols were fol­lowed cor­rectly by the of­fi­cials,” Archer said yes­ter­day. WAYNE Ben­nett could spring a se­lec­tion shock and thrust Sam Thai­day into hooker to stiffen up Bris­bane’s de­fence and se­cure the Bron­cos a top- four fin­ish.

And winger Corey Oates is on the verge of re­turn­ing from a se­ri­ous in­fec­tion to boost the Bron­cos in the run to the fi­nals.

While Ben Hunt is favoured to re­place in­jured No. 9 An­drew McCul­lough, Thai­day spent parts of yes­ter­day’s train­ing ses­sion at dum­my­half and could be in­jected from the bench at hooker.

Hunt and Thai­day may ro­tate in Satur­day night’s derby against the Ti­tans at Cbus Su­per Sta­dium, a game the Bron­cos must win to stay in the con­gested top- four race.

Sport­ing a knee brace and crutches, McCul­lough made an ap­pear­ance at Red Hill, speak­ing to Hunt and Thai­day at the com­ple­tion of the high- in­ten­sity ses­sion.

Ben­nett is ex­pected to name Hunt at hooker to­day but prop Korbin Sims said Thai­day could be a handy re­place­ment at dummy- half.

“N No one can repli­cate Macca but Ben’s very crafty and smart,” he said.

“If he picks a spot he wants to run or pass, I will back him 100 per cent. Mov­ing into the hook­ing role shouldn’t be a worry be­cause he knows all the plays as well.

“Sam knows how the team plays and he has a lot of ex- pe­ri­ence.p He has a crisp pass which he would be able to use out of dummy- half.

“We’ve got a good sys­tem h here where if one player slots out, another slots straight back in. They know their role and what to do.”

A Thai­day cameo at dummy- half would be a left­field move by the seven- time premier­ship- win­ning coach.

But the 32- year- old for­ward’s pass­ing game looked slick at train­ing yes­ter­day and Hunt has had plenty of ex­pe­ri­ence at hooker.

He has played 66 NRL games from the bench, com­ing on mostly at hooker, but also start­ing two matches in the role.

Bron­cos leg­end Dar­ren Lock­yer said Thai­day’s de­fence in the mid­dle could prove handy.

“First and fore­most you need some­one that can han­dle the de­fen­sive work­load in there,” he said.

“Sam isn’t a nat­u­ral dummy- half but de­fen­sively he will han­dle the work­load.

“We’ve got a few op­tions. Hunty has played there be­fore. Josh McGuire has played hooker for Samoa.

“There is no clear- cut re­place­ment. The coach will prob­a­bly want to run with an op­tion, see how it goes and, if it works, keep it there. If it doesn’t, he will have to think of other op­tions.”

Oates, who last played in Round 16 against Can­berra, com­pleted most of the ses­sion.

If he emerges from Bris­bane’s next two ses­sions un­scathed, the tow­er­ing winger will face the Ti­tans a few weeks af­ter a stay in hospi­tal with a staph in­fec­tion that threat­ened to end his sea­son.

UN­CON­VEN­TIONAL OP­TION: Sam Thai­day train­ing at dummy- half; ( be­low) Thai­day, Wayne Ben­nett, an in­jured An­drew McCul­lough and Ben Hunt.

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