RUGBY LEAGUE - DRAGONS
Livewire utility Adam Quinlan is set to become St George Illawarra's third starting halfback in the first five rounds as coach Steve Price inches towards a selection gamble for the South Sydney blockbuster on Saturday night.
Parachuted into the No 1 jersey in Josh Dugan's absence over the first month, Quinlan's irresistible early-season form has him the front runner to partner Gareth Widdop in the halves.
Michael Witt, who began the season as the Dragons' first-choice halfback and made a low-key return from injury in the NSW Cup last week, was named in the top squad earlier in the week.
But Price is reluctant to dispense with Quinlan despite Dugan's return, whisking him into the halfback hot seat as the Red V try to extend the Rabbitohs' miserable recent run.
Quizzed on the role Quinlan could play with the Dragons after Dugan's return, prop Dan Hunt on Friday said: "I think he's been named at halfback and he'll be looking for a big game. We're welcoming Josh back and we're really looking forward to him playing some good footy [too]."
Price was a little more coy on the subject, but told the Dragons website Quinlan would play some part in the Heritage Round clash at the SCG.
"I see Adam playing a vital role in the game [on Saturday] night," he said.
"He trained in the halves for our captain's run and we'll know more [on Saturday] afternoon.
"Michael Witt jumped in there and rotated with Adam, but we'll make a decision [on Saturday] afternoon."
Quinlan's selection would cap an outstanding couple of months for the 21-year-old, who was used in the halves over the latter stages of last season.
The Dragons' preseason was thought to herald a four-way shoot-out for the halfback gig with Witt, Sam Williams, Kyle Stanley and Josh Drinkwater in the mix.
But it now appears Quinlan will have his chance to stake a permanent claim for the troublesome spot as St George Illawarra seek to rebound from their first loss of the season.
Tyson Frizell (ankle) is the only player unavailable for selection following the return of Dugan and Hunt (both knee).
"I guess I could have played [last week]," Hunt said. "Having everyone fit I didn't want to have a month's setback doing any more damage to it. I just had the precautionary week off with it, but [I'm] back this week."
Dugan's return will be the last thing Souths coach Michael Maguire will want to hear as his side looks to end a wretched run of form.
They comfortably disposed of premiers and arch rivals the Roosters in the season opener, but have since plunged to three consecutive losses against the Sea Eagles, Tigers and Raiders.
"They're coming off three losses, so they're going to be very dangerous," Hunt said.
"If you look into it I guess you would [be wary], but we're just trying to worry about ourselves, to be honest with you.
"We beat ourselves last week. We scored 20 points and still lost the game. Usually if you score 20 [points] in the NRL you should win games, so we need to execute our game plan and get our goal line 'D' [defence] right."