Dragons turn to Garvey to fill void

Craig Garvey during Dragons training at WIN Stadium. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Craig Garvey during Dragons training at WIN Stadium. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

RUGBY LEAGUE

Livewire hooker Craig Garvey is set to help alleviate St George Illawarra's hooking crisis, playing his first NRL match since being charged with assault over a pre-season incident outside a Wollongong nightspot.

The 21-year-old is tipped to be added to the Dragons's top squad for the crunch clash against the struggling Sharks at WIN Stadium on Saturday night.

Garvey, who made his debut for the Red V last season, hasn't been seen in Dragons colours in 2014 after an altercation with a man outside the Hotel Illawarra in February. As a result, he was stood down from all club duties with the Dragons.

He has since pleaded not guilty to assault and affray charges stemming from the incident.

The matter will be heard in Kiama Local Court next month.

But the top prospect has let his rugby league do the talking since, impressing in a number of matches for the Illawarra Cutters in the NSW Cup.

Dragons first-choice hooker Mitch Rein took an early guilty plea for his dangerous throw on Tom Burgess in the loss to Souths last Monday night.

He will miss one match.

It has created a headache for coach Paul McGregor, who is leaning towards using two hookers with a combined three games of NRL experience to offset Rein's absence.

McGregor handed an NRL debut to Shane Pumipi last week, but isn't expected to ask the ex-Bulldog to turn in an 80-minute performance as he adjusts to the rigours of the top grade.

On Friday, McGregor would not confirm whether Garvey would get the nod for an NRL return but said it was in his thinking. He would decide on Saturday morning.

"We've named an extended squad again. That will be finalised after our medical staff view one or two players. Craig, along with Michael [Witt], are a chance to play [Saturday] night at some stage."

St George Illawarra's injury and suspension problems pale in comparison with the Sharks, who are likely to be without skipper Paul Gallen and field a backline barely recognisable to anyone other than Cronulla's staunchest fans.

It has prompted McGregor to suggest the visitors would bring a physical approach south of Sydney as they look to bully the Dragons's maligned forward pack.

"I don't think we'll get anything other than that with a local game between Cronulla and St George Illawarra Dragons," he said.

"You're going to have people on the football field doing their best to make people uncomfortable about how they're going to play."

The Dragons will be feeling even more uncomfortable about their position if they can't overcome an injury-ravaged Sharks - that outcome would mark their eighth loss in nine matches.

McGregor admitted the challenge was just as mental as physical with his fragile squad, who started the season so promisingly.

"Winning becomes a definite habit and so does losing. And the only way you can get out of that is by going out and getting a kill," he said.

"We're looking towards that every week we play.

"[But] we need to improve in little places and not look for the 'W'. Our discipline was down with a 7-2 penalty count and we haven't won field position for months now.

"We're not really giving ourselves a chance to score points because we're not getting in an area to score points."

Josh Dugan will have his last chance to press his claims for a State of Origin recall with NSW after again being named in the centres to accommodate Adam Quinlan at fullback. Daley is seeking a new right edge given the injuries to twins Josh (knee) and Brett Morris (shoulder).

McGregor strongly defended Dugan's contribution in his first game there against the Rabbitohs - as long as it was best for the Dragons, Dugan would remain stationed on the right edge.

"At the moment it's the best fix for the football team and while it's the best fix for the football team that's what will happen, regardless of what people think," McGregor said.

"They criticised him [against Souths], but they didn't say he ran 120 metres for seven defensive misses and made 25 tackles for one miss in his first start as a centre. If anyone knows centre play, that's outstanding.

"With Josh ... he wants to play centre, which is very encouraging for a coach when you've got a 102-kilogram player who wants to try something for the team."

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