THE Dragons’ hopes of rebooting their finals charge have been dealt a blow, with key forward Russell Packer in doubt for Sunday’s clash with Manly in Wollongong as he nurses a hip injury.
Packer left the field just six minutes into his side’s golden-point loss to Canberra on Friday after injuring his hip on the first collision of the match. He didn’t return and appears at long odds to take the field at WIN Stadium in what’s shaping a must-win clash against the Sea Eagles as the Dragons look to avoid tumbling out of the top eight.
Packer and front-row partner Paul Vaughan were at the forefront of the forward-driven “power game” that saw the Dragons go 6-1 to start the season. Coach Paul McGregor will be hoping Packer isn’t facing an extended stint on the sidelines but admitted the early signs weren’t good in the immediate aftermath to loss to the Raiders.
“He’s not real good,” McGregor said.
“It was the first hit-up of the game, he copped a knock right on the hip-pointer and he just couldn’t run after that. He copped a couple of needles to get back out there but couldn’t work through them.
“They didn’t really do anything so that’s not a good sign. It’s a bludger of an injury to, a hip-pointer.
“He’s got a nine-day turn now so I’m hoping we’ll have him [next week]. We’ll work hard on him to get him back because he’s important to what we do.”
Packer’s early shower was one of an array of injuries the Dragons dealt with at GIO Stadium, with Josh Dugan failing an HIA after he was floored by a shoulder charge from Josh Papalii – a shot that saw the Maroons Origin enforcer cited.
It was a seventh loss in their past 10 games but McGregor saw positive signs in the performance.
“If we play like that we’ll win most of our games throughout the rest of the year,” McGregor said.
“Our execution was quite good when we had the footy, defensively we were strong, unfortunately we just didn’t get the result. We had a lot of injuries during the game. We had [Dugan] come off, a couple of other guys in the head-bin and losing Russ with a hip pointer early in the game...that’s footy, sometimes it goes your way and tonight it didn’t.”