McGregor gives Dragons a shake-up

Paul McGregor

Paul McGregor

RUGBY LEAGUE- DRAGONS

With the Dragons drifting from the NRL finals picture, Paul McGregor made his first selection shake-up as coach after Adam Quinlan was rested for Saturday's showdown with Canberra.

Gerard Beale, who was recruited from Brisbane as the Dragons' long-term fullback option before Josh Dugan arrived in Wollongong, has been named at fullback.

Quinlan has played in every match of McGregor's reign. But in McGregor's first major shake-up since ascending to the top job, Peter Mata'utia earns a call-up to replace Quinlan at left centre.

Jack de Belin was promoted to the front row to make way for Trent Merrin to start at lock, with Mike Cooper shifting to an interchange that includes Tyson Frizell on his return from an ankle injury.

The Raiders have been granted NRL permission to select Jordan Rapana at fullback for a second consecutive week in an unchanged Canberra team.

The Raiders are keen to give Rapana as much time in the top grade as possible, given he signed a one-year contract extension last week and is viewed as a potential fullback replacement for Anthony Milford in 2015.

But Rapana's selection for the remainder of this season will be week by week, given Canberra has exhausted their second-tier salary cap and Rapana requires NRL clearance because he is outside the club's top-25 contracted players.

Rapana's selection for Saturday's game against the Dragons had been in jeopardy because Raiders outside backs Reece Robinson (lower back) and Sami Sauiluma (ankle) - both in Canberra's top 25 - are expected to return from injury.

But it's understood the Raiders were contemplating switching Milford back to fullback anyway if Rapana's selection was denied by the NRL.

So Robinson and Sauiluma are both likely to play NSW Cup with Raiders feeder club Mounties.

It is becoming apparent Robinson, a regular NRL player with the Raiders since 2010 but off contract at the end of the season, won't be in Canberra next year.

Milford played in the halves in Canberra's spirited 18-10 loss to the Parramatta Eels in Darwin on Saturday, enabling Rapana to play his first NRL match since his rookie season for the Gold Coast Titans in 2008.

It's understood the Raiders are also taking interest in contractual situations of fullbacks at other clubs, especially Brett Stewart at Manly and Josh Hoffman at Brisbane. Both players can't enter into discussions with rival clubs until November or unless their club grants permission.

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