HE’S been the Dragons’ Mr Fixit throughout their 2017 campaign, but bench utility-cum-halfback Kurt Mann could prove the spark to reignite his side’s finals hopes if his performance against Gold Coast on Saturday is any guide.
Mann was thrust into the play-making hot-seat after regular No. 7 Josh McCrone succumbed to a niggling groin injury, scoring two tries and linking seamlessly with skipper Gareth Widdop as the Dragons re-found their attacking groove.
Coach Paul McGregor offered a succinct “yes” when asked if the 24-year-old had done enough to keep the gig this week against Brisbane, after labeling his side’s first half their best of the season.
“Josh has had groin trouble on both sides for about a month and a half,” McGregor said.
“He couldn’t really run earlier in the week and he was struggling to get through a full 80 minutes so, with Kurt there, we made the change.
“He’s got speed in attack and defence, he’s aggressive and he likes to carry the footy so he’s a running threat as well. He worked hard through the week and his performance was very solid.”
Mann has started four games in the halves this season only to be shifted mid-game to cover injuries and said having a week to prepare was a big confidence-booster.
“Mary [McGregor] told me at the start of the week [that I’d be playing] and that really helped me,” Mann said.
“The last time I played there we were on a short turnaround and I had one training session there and that was my first game with Gaz [Widdop] as well.
I think everyone wants to be in the starting side and that’s what I want to do, I want to be in the starting side.
“This time, having a better week at training and being my second game with him, we gelled a bit better.
“I was just trying to help set up his game. When he plays well, we usually win so I was just trying to lay out our points and give him a platform to play off.
“He ended up doing the same thing for me so it worked out well.”
Having played every position in the back-line at some stage this season, Mann said he’d like to nail down the No. 7 jumper in the three games the Dragons have left to push their top eight claims.
“I think everyone wants to be in the starting side and that’s what I want to do, I want to be in the starting side,” Mann said.
“The stuff that’s happened before, no one can control or predict that. That’s out of my hands with injuries and, me being versatile, I’ve ended up getting shifted around.
“That’s my role, it’s what the team needed, but it was definitely good to get 80 minutes out in the halves.”
Brisbane promise to provide a much sterner test of the Dragons finals credentials this week with Mann admitting every match is now must-win for his side.
“We’ve backed ourselves into a corner so we haven’t really given ourselves much option,” Mann said.
“Finals have started for us. Our head’s on the chopping block from now on and that’s the way we’ve got to play.”