There was mixed news for NSW coach Laurie Daley as he looks towards State of Origin II with Paul Gallen suffering an injury setback, while Sydney Roosters star Blake Ferguson looks set for an early NRL return on Monday.
Gallen, who missed the Origin series-opening loss to Queensland on Wednesday, was widely tipped to make his long-awaited return to the NRL from a hip injury against St George Illawarra at Jubilee Oval on Sunday.
“It was going really well and I tried to probably push it a little at the back of this week to play this game and it’s pulled up a little bit sore,” Gallen told the Nine Network during the match, won 42-6 by the Dragons.
“It’s a minor setback and I’ll see how I go for next week.
“I’m doing everything I can. I was back to full training, fingers crossed I can get back next week and the preparation (Origin) will be as normal.”
Ferguson is set to return much earlier than expected from an ankle injury against the Storm at Allianz Stadium on Monday, provided he pulled up well following training on Sunday.
Injured in late March, Ferguson was initially expected to be out for at least four months.
Should Ferguson play against the Storm and then the Sharks, he would have a couple of NRL games under his belt before Daley names his team for Origin II after round 13.
He would likely come into contention for the June 17 clash at the MCG.
Ferguson, who played for NSW in 2013 before his career went off the rails, suffered the injury in his fourth game back in the NRL after a 22-month exile after being sacked by Canberra for off-field issues.
He returned to Roosters’ training this week after spending two weeks receiving treatment on the injury in the US.
Meanwhile, St George Illawarra’s thumping of the Sharks saw them jump to the top of the ladder.
The Dragons racked up their biggest win of the season after running in six tries to one against a listless Sharks.
Earlier on Sunday, the Warriors made it three consecutive wins as they downed visitors Newcastle 24-20 to leave the Auckland-based side sixth on the ladder.
Premiers South Sydney overcame a four-point deficit at halftime to finish over the top of hosts Gold Coast on Saturday afternoon with Greg Inglis among the tryscorers for the Rabbitohs who sit fifth on the ladder.
Souths’ win came before North Queensland recorded their ninth straight victory when Gavin Cooper scored a late try to get the Cowboys home 18-14 in Townsville, heaping more pressure on the coach of bottom-placed Manly, Geoff Toovey.
Second-placed Brisbane kept their impressive season going with a 24-12 win over Canberra, who have lost three straight.
On Friday night, Parramatta jumped back into the winner’s circle with a 26-20 triumph over Penrith.
The Panthers’ loss was compounded by an injury to star fullback Matt Moylan, who has been ruled out for at least six weeks with strained ankle ligaments.