Widdop takes on key role for Storm in NRL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Widdop takes on key role for Storm in NRL

Steve Jancetic 16/08/2011 07:39:04 PM Comments (0)

Melbourne assistant coach Robbie Kearns claims stand-in halfback Gareth Widdop has a chance to establish himself as a leader within the Storm's ranks during Cooper Cronk's injury-enforced absence.

Widdop will take over the No.7 jumper for Friday night's clash against struggling premiers St George Illawarra, with Cronk sidelined for up to a fortnight with a foot injury.

While the Storm would have loved to have been at full-strength as they close in on the minor premiership, the opportunity to pit Widdop - who has been a revelation at five-eighth in his first full season in the top grade - in the playmaking hotseat in such a big game is not without its benefits.

"Gareth's a sensational player. He's really stood up this year and made a bit of a name for himself," Kearns told the Storm's website.

"Cooper being out for a couple of weeks is obviously bad news for us but it gives the opportunity for Gareth to really stand up and be a bit of a playmaker.

"Hopefully, Gareth's really going to stand up and start leading the team around. I'm sure he's capable of doing it."

Maurice Blair (shoulder) has been named at five-eighth with Beau Champion coming into the centres, but neither Blair nor Dane Neilsen (ankle) are certain to play.

The Dragons included Mark Gasnier (hip) in naming a full-strength side, with Kyle Stanley on a five-man bench.

Dual international Lote Tuqiri (quad) was not named in an unchanged line-up to face Parramatta, the Wests Tigers' five-game winning streak allowing coach Tim Sheens the luxury of giving the veteran back an extra week to recover.

The Warriors welcome back Lance Hohaia on the interchange bench after a month out with a knee injury, while Elijah Taylor returns from a week's rest to replace the suspended Ukuma Ta'ai for Saturday's meeting with Penrith at Centrebet Stadium.

Wayward Panthers star Michael Jennings will finally get his chance at fullback following his one week's penance for turning up to training under the influence of alcohol, ahead of last Friday's loss to the Tigers.

It's only fitting Jennings should get his chance to play, seeing as part of his punishment included buying and handing out 2000 tickets for Saturday night's encounter.

The return of North Queensland veteran Aaron Payne from a facial injury should ease some of the pressure on star halfback Johnathan Thurston against South Sydney, who will again have try-scoring machine Nathan Merritt in the No.1 jumper.

Manly's former Test winger David Williams makes a timely comeback in place of injured rookie Will Hopoate when the Sea Eagles host Canterbury at Brookvale on Sunday.

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