St George Illawarra are hoping for a major boost with halfback Benji Marshall a chance to return to take on Penrith in Sunday’s NRL clash.
Marshall missed last week’s breakthrough win over South Sydney and was again omitted when coach Paul McGregor named his line-up on Tuesday due to his hamstring injury, but he will be given right up until kickoff to prove his fitness.
The 31-year-old former Kiwis captain ran for the first time on Wednesday and will re-join his teammates in Saturday’s captain’s run before McGregor makes a final call.
“He’s a player that’s valuable to the club, and a leader,” said McGregor on Thursday.
“For us it’s wait and see, as it would be with any other player with that experience.”
Should he fail to return, back-up Josh McCrone will again take his place after a strong showing against the Rabbitohs alongside captain Gareth Widdop.
“Josh has done a great job and that’s what Josh is here for, to be that experienced player that we need and put pressure on those guys that played on the weekend,” McGregor said.
Star Josh Dugan will wear the No.1 jumper for the second week in a row after his impressive outing against the Rabbitohs, seemingly ending his experiment in the centres.
Further solidifying the decision were the big numbers put up by his replacement on the right edge.
Euan Aitken, who was squeezed out of the 17 the previous week, made 169 metres from 18 carries and also tallied 25 tackles without missing, earning particular praise from his coach.
“It’s the first time he’s been disappointed in any selection in any grade or any year throughout his career. It was the first time he’d been stood down,” he said.
“He certainly proved to everyone, including players, staff and everyone that watched the game, that he’s very committed and he’s a player that goes about his business like no other.
“He just wants to be involved in the game, he’s got no fear in the way he plays, and his effort on effort is sensational. It’s a credit to the kid.”