St George-Illawarra coach Paul McGregor expects Cronulla skipper Paul Gallen to make his long-awaited return from his hip injury in Sunday’s NRL local derby at Kogarah.
Gallen hasn’t played since the club’s Round 6 win over Newcastle and also missed NSW’s State of Origin series-opening loss to Queensland on Wednesday night.
The 33-year-old had previously targeted the side’s Round 13 clash against the Titans for his comeback game, but McGregor is adamant Gallen will run out onto WIN Jubilee Oval this weekend.
“I do, without a doubt,” McGregor said on Thursday.
“It’s coming up to this time of the year with Origin.
“He’s a great leader. His team needs him at the moment so I’m sure he’ll roll himself out there for sure.”
McGregor also confirmed his Origin duo of Josh Dugan and Trent Merrin are set to back up against the Sharks, despite Dugan copping a slight knock to the hip against the Maroons.
“Trent didn’t play a lot of minutes so he was really keen to actually have a run around today,” he said.
“But we put him on ice because it’s not a good thing to do, to run twice in 24 hours, coming off an Origin battle.
“So we rested him up today, but he’ll be definitely right Saturday.
“Duges has pulled through really good.
“He’s got a slight cork in the hip, but there’ll be no problems with him.”
Given Dugan’s long history with injuries, the coaching staff put together a specific recovery plan to manage their star fullback through the representative period.
McGregor said the 25-year-old would be rested from almost the entire week of training in order to keep him fresh both physically and mentally for the weekend.
“We’re a little bit blessed there. We’ve got two games off during that period,” he said.
“And certainly leading into either game, I won’t see him until a day before the game.
“Following this game we’ve got a Monday night game, so I’ll give him five to six days off straight after Sunday.
“We’ll freshen him right up before his next game and then he goes back into camp and we’ll see how he comes out of the second round but we can do the same thing there.
“You need him in your football team to success, but you’ve always got to be really careful how hard you push them leading up to the game.
“My preference is they play but they don’t do much work through the week.”