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Bellamy delighted with Widdop's form

Melissa Woods 14/06/2011 12:42:08 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne NRL coach Craig Bellamy can be a hard man to please, but five-eighth Gareth Widdop has certainly put a smile on his face.

Stalled behind the world's best fullback Billy Slater, Widdop switched to No.6 this season with the departure of veteran Brett Finch and had made the position his own.

Against the Roosters at AAMI Park on Monday night, with Slater and co absent on State of Origin duty, the 22-year-old played like a seasoned veteran rather than a 15-gamer to steer his side to a 21-4 romp.

Bellamy was delighted with the performance of his entire team, and made special mention of Widdop, who took on extra duties in the absence of Maroon Cooper Cronk or another specialised halfback in the line-up.

He and Maurice Blair, who usually played in the centres, more than held their own against Roosters' star halves Braith Anasta and Todd Carney.

As well as his impressive general play, Widdop nailed a field goal with 10 minutes remaining to open his team's lead to 17-4 and snuff out any hopes of a Roosters' fightback.

"He's a pretty special player," Bellamy said of Widdop, who moved to Australia with his family as a teenager and had played four Tests for England.

"He's come on even better than I thought he would. He's always had a great ability to find some space and be in the right position at the right time. He's got a great knowledge of the game.

"I didn't quite know how he'd handle the rigours of first grade consistently - week in, week out - but he's been outstanding."

The coach will have a selection headache in coming weeks, but one he's happy to have.

Among the contenders to fill the outside back positions are Beau Champion, Maurice Blair, Justin O'Neill, Anthony Quinn, Sisa Waqa and Matt Duffie, as well as Queensland Origin representative Dane Nielsen.

"We've had some real injury issues with some of those guys over the last six to eight weeks, but it's nice to have those guys back and we've got some real competition for those positions now," he said.

"It's a nice problem to have."

Melbourne remain in second spot on the NRL ladder, although have a tough road to the finals.

They are playing away until round 20 in late July, and only have three home games left.

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