ST GEORGE Illawarra coach Paul McGregor insists he won’t rush star forward Tyson Frizell back onto the paddock post-State of Origin though Paul Vaughan appears likely to make an early return from injury when the Dragons take on Canberra on Friday.
McGregor made a preemptive decision to rest Frizell from the clash with the Raiders, leaving him out of the side he named on Tuesday prior to Wednesday night’s Origin decider.
Frizell has been hampered by a rib cartilage tear since the Dragons round 13 victory over Wests Tigers and suffered a fresh tear to his ribs in his side’s last-start loss to the Titans – a match in which he was also nursing an ankle injury.
He required pain-killing injections to get on the park in games one and two of the Origin series and McGregor said the decision to rest him from Friday’s clash was a no-brainer.
“We’ve given him six days off so he’s just going to go away and let his body heal and clear his mind,” McGregor said.
“Tyson’s one tough kid and he’s been playing under an injury cloud for a number of weeks now and, when you do that, you put pressure on other parts of his body and other parts of his body have been breaking down.
“To put him out there 48 hours after one of the hardest games he’ll ever play… you just put him at risk and it’s not good for him personally.”
Frizell is no certainty to take on Manly in Wollongong next week either, with McGregor saying he will give the 25-year-old as long as he needs to get his battered body back at 100 per cent.
“He just needs to clear his head and certainly get his body right to finish off the season strong,” McGregor said.
“If he feels well enough next week, and his body’s healed, he’ll play, if not, he won’t play [next] week either. Our team needs him, he’s one of our experienced representative players, but we need him healthy. If he’s not healthy, we need to get him right that way.”
McGregor said Josh Dugan will back up despite nursing a slight groin injury from the Blues loss to Queensland on Wednesday.
“He’s got a tight groin but he’s fine,” McGregor said.
“Josh is a little bit of a different circumstance to Friz because he’s missed five games this year through Origin or injury so his body’s not bumped and bruised as much.”
With Frizell missing, the likely return of Vaughan in time to take on his former club is a huge boost for the Dragons as they look to reboot their charge at the finals.
“He’s good, he’s actually surprised me, and surprised everyone, with his quick healing,” McGregor said when asked about Vaughan’s availability.
“We were working towards this week but probably really looking at next week but he’s surprised everyone. He’s got through everything and if he gets through the captain’s run he’ll definitely play.”
Deemed surplus to requirements by the Raiders last season, Vaughan set the tone for the Dragons flying start to the season and McGregor is confident the 26-year-old can recapture to form.
“Of late he’s had the injury and little setbacks but he’s had an exceptional year.,” McGregor said.
“He was on the fringe of playing Origin six weeks ago so it’s good to have a player of his ability back in our footy team.”