Embattled Canterbury pivot Josh Reynolds will be given the chance to push his case for NSW selection when he starts at five-eighth in the Bulldogs’ crucial NRL clash with Manly on Friday.
Coach Des Hasler confirmed on Thursday Reynolds would start the round-seven clash for the first time since he broke his arm in the opening-round loss to Penrith.
That injury sidelined the incumbent Blues State of Origin five-eighth for three games.
For the past two matches, he has come off the bench for the Dogs, with Moses Mbye starting, in disappointing losses to South Sydney and St George Illawarra.
Reynolds and his Dogs halves partner and NSW halfback Trent Hodkinson have come under heavy criticism for their form just six weeks out from Origin I from Blues great Andrew Johns.
Hasler will start Reynolds in a bid to help his ignite his Origin selection hopes and to help kickstart the injury and suspension-hit Dogs.
“He will start; he is 100 per cent starting,” a laconic Hasler said.
Hasler conceded the form of his halves needed to lift.
“Trent, by his own admission, probably didn’t have one of his best games. We all have those – we all have our off days,” he said.
“But it is early days.”
However prop Tim Browne, who was knocked out by Dragons back-rower Tyson Frizell on Sunday, is unlikely to take to ANZ Stadium to play the Sea Eagles.
“He is getting there,” Hasler said.
“Obviously, it was an experience where he lost consciousness and we are all fully aware of our responsibilities around that so he will be battling to play this week.”
CANTERBURY V MANLY KEY STATS:
* The Bulldogs have won six of the nine matches between these two teams since Des Hasler left Manly
* Manly’s form on the road is terrible – losing eight straight away from Brookvale Oval, the Sea Eagles’ worst streak away from the Fortress since nine straight defeats in 1998-99
* Manly have busted less tackles than any other team this season and run for the least metres
* Curtis Rona has been prolific so far in his short NRL career, with 12 tries in 13 games including six in six games this season. He has five tries in his four matches at ANZ Stadium