Maitua on verge of NRL return - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Maitua on verge of NRL return

Steve Jancetic 28/06/2011 05:20:15 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta backrower Ben Smith claims returning NRL bad boy Reni Maitua could be just the spark to ignite the Eels' fading finals hopes.

Maitua is poised to make his NRL return this weekend after more than two years on the sidelines, during which he served a drug ban following his positive test to clenbuterol.

With a handful of NSW Cup games with Wentworthville under his belt, the 29-year-old former Test representative has been named on an extended bench for Friday night's clash against Brisbane at Parramatta Stadium.

It will be Maitua's first taste of top flight football since turning out for Cronulla on May 16, 2009 - at which point his NRL career seemed over.

"Reni is a quality player, he's a representative footballer," Smith said of the impact Maitua could have on the struggling Eels, who have won just one of their last seven games.

"He's been away for a couple of years but we've all seen him play the last few weeks and he hasn't lost anything.

"It's exciting for him personally to be back and it's exciting for us to have him back.

"... I think what he's going to offer on the paddock is what we've been lacking, that bit of creativity."

Parramatta's bid to find form has been helped by a schedule which pits them against a Broncos side devoid of its State of Origin representatives.

Dane Gagai, Corey Norman, Dunamis Lui and Matt Gillett all come into the run-one side, while Andrew McCullough returns from his club-imposed suspension on the bench.

Nigel Plum returns from injury to replace NSW representative Luke Lewis in the Penrith side to play Canterbury on Saturday night, with former Kiwi international Dene Halatau deputising for Michael Ennis for the Bulldogs.

The St George Illawarra side to face Newcastle on Sunday bears little resemblance to one which man-handled Manly on Monday night, with Origin call-ups testing the premiers' depth.

Skipper Ben Hornby returns from an ankle injury, with rookie Alex McKinnon, Ratu Peni Tagive and veteran Reece Simmonds joining him in a reshuffled backline.

Shaun Kenny-Dowall has been named in the centres for the Sydney Roosters after recovering from an ankle injury, with Braith Anasta to again partner Todd Carney in the halves for Monday night's match against Canberra.

Mark Khierallah comes in at fullback for NSW Origin custodian Anthony Minichiello, with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves to start in place of Queensland representative Nate Myles.

The Raiders are again expected to be without Josh Dugan with his ankle injury taking longer than expected to overcome.

"Josh has only just commenced rehab running and he'll need to get through a lot more on the field before we can select him back in the team," coach David Furner said.

"At this stage he's only an outside chance for this week and Nathan Massey has been doing a great job for us so there's no need to rush him back if he's not fit."

South Sydney have shown no such patience with English prop Luke Burgess, the older sibling of injured star Sam named to face Cronulla on Sunday a week after signing with the club.

Eddy Pettybourne replaces the suspended David Taylor in the second row, while Shaune Corrigan comes into the centres for Queensland star Greg Inglis.

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