Marshall set to go for Panthers NRL clash

St George Illawarra halfback Benji Marshall has passed coach Paul McGregor’s eye test and is set to return for Thursday night’s must-win clash against Penrith.

A hamstring injury kept Marshall out of the side’s heavy defeat to Brisbane last start but the key playmaker has 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,” 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 in order to stave off a hot Manly side equal on 24 points and waiting for the Red V to stumble.

McGregor said the team was well aware of its predicament and was prepared for a Penrith side that has 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.

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