Gasnier cleared to the relief of Murray - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Gasnier cleared to the relief of Murray

By Steve Jancetic 18/05/2006 06:55:24 PM Comments (0)

NSW coach Graham Murray received the news he'd been hoping for all week with Test centre Mark Gasnier declared fit to play in Wednesday night's opening State of Origin match at Telstra Stadium.

Having already lost one centre, Matt Cooper (hamstring), to injury, Murray was sweating on Gasnier passing a fitness test on his injured hip on Thursday.

The St George Illawarra three-quarter did enough to satisfy NSW medical staff that he would be 100 per cent by Wednesday night, much to the relief of the first-time Origin coach.

"Obviously the two centres that were picked in Cooper and Gasnier were picked as the two best centres in the competition," Murray said.

"We lost one two days ago, we didn't want to lose a second one.

"We had our fingers crossed and it's good that it came out this way."

With Gasnier proving his fitness, Penrith centre Luke Lewis has been released from the Blues camp and will be available to play for the Panthers in Friday night's NRL clash against Parramatta at CUA Stadium.

Rated the best centre in the game, the Blues could ill-afford to lose a player of Gasnier's attacking talents, given they are already without several key players in their backline due to injury and representative retirements.

Gasnier is very much the trump in Murray's pack, with halves Braith Anasta and Craig Gower sure to be instructed to throw plenty of ball the way of the Dragons ace.

"(Gasnier) gives us something extra in attack and why he's in the team is he's playing good football for his club," Murray said.

"We think he's going to be pretty good for us again on Wednesday."

His availability means Murray will finally be able to finalise his backline formation, with Gasnier to partner winger Matt King on the right and Parramatta duo Timana Tahu and Eric Grothe to operate on the left, as they have done in recent times at the Eels.

Tahu said he was relieved to finally crack it for a run in the centres on the representative stage, with his eight previous appearances for NSW all coming on the wing.

After six years on the outside flank for Newcastle, Tahu has been a revelation in the centres for Parramatta the last two seasons.

"It wasn't really anything that entered my head... it was just playing consistently for my club and hopefully the selectors and the coaching staff would see that I was a centre," the 25-year-old said.

"They've given me a chance now and I'm happy for it.

"I'm not going to try and do too much, try anything special and take chances, because it's going to a tough game. I'll just play my natural game and leave Braith and Gowie to do most of the ball playing."

The Blues took time out from their schedule to pay a visit to the Westmead Children's Hospital, but will get back to training on Friday ahead of a jersey presentation at Sydney's Martin Place at lunchtime.

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