Witt gets first shot at Dragons 7 jersey

RUGBY LEAGUE

The last time Michael Witt played an NRL game, Avatar was No 1 at the box office, Kevin Rudd had only been Prime Minister once and Queensland had just four Origin series in a row.

Steve Price sprung a selection surprise yesterday in staking his future on the 30-year-old journeyman - ahead of highly touted off-season recruit Sam Williams - for the Dragons round one clash with the Wests Tigers.

The match at ANZ Stadium will end an NRL drought that stretches beyond a thousand days to Witt's last match for the New Zealand Warriors in 2008.

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While the signatures of Williams, Gareth Widdop, Dylan Farrell and Joel Thompson were met with much fanfare among Dragons faithful, the late pick-up of Witt from English Super League strugglers London Broncos in November was largely unheralded.

The former Eels, Manly and Warriors halfback joined a long queue for the halfback role and was tipped to spend most of the 2014 season as understudy to Williams.

Price, however, saw enough in Witt's strong performance at the Auckland Nines and impressive 20-minute cameo in the Charity Shield, to give him the starting role for round one.

Skipper Ben Creagh endorsed the move, backing Witt's experience to guide a young Dragons side around the paddock.

"It is a young side we've got this year and having a guy like Witty is important for the side," Creagh said.

"He played really well when he came on in the Charity Shield and he's been training great since he's been here.

"I think he plays alongside Gareth really well and he's got a really mature head and a mature view on things."

Apart from the Witt selection shock, the only other minor surprise in Price's side was Creagh's own selection in the back row after spending the preseason at prop and starting up front in the Charity Shield.

The move forced another of the club's big name recruits, Joel Thompson, to the interchange bench.

"I'll be playing left back row and I really enjoy playing there," Creagh said. "There might be times during the year that I have to play front row and I've been filling in there during the pre-season and the back end of last year but I'll start the season there [back row].

"Hopefully I keep playing well and hold my spot because Joel Thompson's there, Bronson's [Harrison] there as well, so there's quality back-rowers in the side.

"I've definitely got to play well to keep my spot."

The news of Witt's selection was a change for the Dragons ahead of round one, after the standing down of back-up hooker Craig Garvey for an alleged assault on Friday.

Creagh was tight-lipped on the drama but insisted it won't affect his side in the lead up to Sunday's match.

"It's disappointing, but we've just focused on the footy this Sunday," Creagh said.

"That's all we've focused on the last couple of days of training and that's all we focused on last week.

"It only happened a few days ago so he [Garvey] hasn't spoken to the senior players.

"He's spoken to the CEO and the coach about what's happened and it's being dealt with through those people. We're just worried about Sunday afternoon at ANZ [Stadium]."

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