ST GEORGE Illawarra skipper Gareth Widdop is all but certain to make an early return from injury against Wests Tigers on Sunday as the Dragons look to keep their foothold in the top four.
Widdop, who hasn’t played since injuring his knee in his side’s Anzac Day loss to the Roosters, completed the Dragons full ball-work session at five-eighth on Wednesday and also came through contact work unscathed.
The English International was named on an extended bench on Tuesday with Kurt Mann listed in the No.6 with the latter not cagey at all when asked about his skipper’s availability on Wednesday.
“I think he’s just got to get through the week and they’ll see how he goes but I’m pretty confident he’ll get through it,”
“[Coach Paul McGregor] has told me I could be playing a few different positions so I’ve just got to try and do my best during the week and try and nail my role down.
“That’s my role in the team, I filled in [at five-eighth] while [Widdop] was gone, but having him back is definitely a big bonus for us. You can’t really replace him, he’s a world class player and it’s great to see him back.”
With Josh Dugan named to back up from Origin I against the Tigers, Mann appears most likely to revert to his familiar bench utility role with Jason Nightingale shifting back to the left wing.
Wherever he plays, Mann will be full of confidence having produced his best performance for the club, and arguably the best of his NRL career, in his preferred position against the Warriors last start.
“It was just good to get a full 80 minutes out in the one position,” Mann said.
“It was really good to get an opportunity to play in the halves.
“Those couple of games that I played there were the first time I’ve played there in my whole [NRL] career so it was really good to get a start there.”
The Dragons halted a three-game losing streak with an impressive 30-14 win over the Warriors, picking up a crucial two points heading into a bye week.
“We started the season really well and went through a tough little period there,” Mann said.
“We played some really good teams, the Sharks [game] was a close one, Anzac Day against the Roosters was a close one. Melbourne were just too good for us [in round nine].
“You don’t want to be losing four games in a row at this time of the year so it that win was pretty crucial.”