St George Illawarra star Benji Marshall hasn’t completely given up hope of halves partner Gareth Widdop playing in Saturday’s NRL elimination final against Canterbury.
The Englishman is battling a quadriceps strain which ruled him out of last weekend’s final round win over Wests Tigers.
Widdop is expected to be sidelined for at least another week and wasn’t named by coach Paul McGregor on Tuesday.
But Marshall says nothing has been set in stone.
“He’s working very hard,” Marshall said of Widdop.
“The boys see it every day. He’s on the ice machine, he’s out with physios and out walking it, trying to get the swelling down.
“He’s definitely still a chance but we’re just going to prepare like he’s not playing and if he does turn up and play on gameday we’ll adjust accordingly.”
In the expected event that Widdop isn’t fit for the do-or-die clash with the Bulldogs, Marshall’s halves partner will again be young gun Drew Hutchinson.
The 20-year-old played just his third first-grade game in the golden-point win over the Tigers but Marshall has faith the youngster will deliver in the pressure cooker of a final if needed.
“He’s a kid who’s not fazed by much,” Marshall said.
“He just wants to do his job for his team and apart from that, off the field, he’s one of the nicest young gentlemen I’ve been involved with.
“I’ve a lot of trust – a lot of faith – in him that if Gareth doesn’t play he’ll be able to do a good job.”
Marshall himself is excited about lining up in finals football for the first time since 2011.
The New Zealander played a starring role in the Dragons overcoming a Tigers comeback to seal their top eight spot and is excited about what lies ahead.
“I’ve noticed the difference around training, everyone’s pretty upbeat,” he said.
“Our goal at the start of the season was to make the top eight and now we’re here we feel like we’re a genuine chance.”