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Brown throws his youngsters in deep end

12/02/2003 07:06:58 AM Comments (0)

A lack of depth has prompted St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown to name a young side for the annual Charity Shield rugby league clash with South Sydney this weekend.

Halfback Brett Firman, recruited from Cronulla, and bench players Ryan Tandy, Mark Christensen and Dean Young - aged between 19 to 21 - are yet to make their first grade debuts but will play against a strong Rabbitohs line-up at Aussie Stadium on Saturday night.

Brown said the salary cap had bitten hard on the National Rugby League clubs, which had been forced to shed players to fit under the $3.25 million limit.

The result is that youngsters are being thrown in the deep end earlier to help prepare them for first grade.

Even though Brown and rival coach Craig Coleman are treating the match as a trial, the pressure will still be applied to several fringe players pushing to make the big stage.

"We've got six blokes on pretty good money and that takes up a large slice of your salary cap," Brown said here today at the Dragons' season launch.

"You rely on your young guys to do a good job for you for a period of the year and then the following year you'd expect those guys to work on being regular first graders.

"The young guys going around this week, hopefully they'll do well and you'll see them playing comp games this year."

Brown has named three fullbacks in his backline, with Reece Simmonds getting a crack at the No.1 jersey ahead of Amos Roberts, who's been shifted to the wing.

The coach said he had promised utility Ben Hornby first crack at fullback but skipper Trent Barrett's ankle injury forced him to play Hornby at No.6.

"Benny's a guy who can play good in three or four spots," Brown said.

"Sometimes it's sad to be a player like that but it's great to have a player like that.

"He is the Mr Fixit of our team and every good side has got one of them or the very lucky ones might have two."

Hornby today said he didn't like chopping and changing but was happy to take on the role in the interests of the team.

Horny, who celebrates his 23rd birthday on Monday, filled in admirably for Barrett in 2002 when the Test five-eighth was injured and this year he's confident and feeling even less pressure.

"There's more senior players than me that will have to take on a lot of that load...so I just want to go out there and play well so when Trent does come back, there's no pressure on him to play well."

Papua New Guinean journeyman John Wilshere - a 24-year-old who's played for Perth Reds, Melbourne and Penrith - will play on the wing.

Brown said Test prop Jason Ryles (foot) was due back for a trial against Cronulla in Port Macquarie on March 1 while star centre Shaun Timmins (knee) should return in the early rounds of the NRL competition.

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