St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor has revealed just how badly Drew Hutchison’s season-crippling knee injury affected him personally.
Hutchison, a former Junior Kangaroos representative, was set to replace Benji Marshall in the halves for the Dragons this season before his left knee buckled on him in training last December, tearing his anterior-cruciate ligament.
The incident left him requiring surgery, ruling him out for at least the majority of the season and ending McGregor’s plans to put him in the No.7 jersey on a full-time basis in 2017.
“I was really hurt by it,” McGregor said.
“The first week or two post Drew’s injury I was just shattered for Drew more than anything else.
“My head wasn’t in a space for worrying about who was going to replace him, I was more seeing how his well-being was.”
Hutchison has long been considered a future option for the Dragons.
He has spent the past two seasons playing NSW Cup, after he was named in the under-20s NRL team of the year in 2014 and played for the Junior Kangaroos.
The stellar junior season also saw him earn an NRL contract until the end of 2017, however he will now be without another opportunity to impress before his manager David Riolo – who has indicated the Dragons want to keep him – heads to the negotiating table.
“That’s where it hurts a lot,” McGregor said.
“He knew that he had a good window to go out there and perform on a big stage.
“I know how much he wanted that opportunity and how much work he had done to put himself in a position for it.”
McGregor, who is no longer involved in the club’s recruitment, has since shifted his focus to who will replace Hutchison in 2017.
Josh McCrone has since emerged as the favourite to join Gareth Widdop in the halves, while youngster Jai Field, uncapped Shaun Nona and the versatile Kurt Mann remain a shot.
McGregor said he would wait until after his team’s trial matches – including Saturday’s 20-10 win over the Wests Tigers in Wollongong – to make a decision.
“I look at the trials as an opportunity,” he said.
“They’ll all get a good opportunity and the player who comes up through the trials and we see the most improvement in may get the opportunity come round one.”