Healthy Dragons ready for NRL finals - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Healthy Dragons ready for NRL finals

Steve Jancetic 03/09/2011 09:07:38 AM Comments (0)

They may not have Wests Tigers' impressive form or Melbourne's likely minor premiership, but St George Illawarra boast something none of their rivals have heading into the NRL finals - a clean bill of health.

The reigning premiers emerged from their 32-12 win over Penrith in their regular season finale with no injuries, leaving coach Wayne Bennett with every first-choice player at his disposal for the run to the grand final.

It's a situation, on the back of two solid wins, that has Bennett convinced his side was in good shape no matter where they finish up on the ladder.

"Jon Green will be back next week, I don't think we've got an injuries in that room tonight," Bennett said.

"It was the same last year for us, with the exception of Dan Hunt who got injured early in the year, we had everybody available.

"That's the two things you want - a little bit of form and you're best squad available."

That's something none of the other sides in the top eight can claim, though Brisbane may be at full strength if Justin Hodges makes his third comeback of the year from a hamstring injury in the opening week of the finals.

Melbourne will definitely be without the suspended Adam Blair - who had played every game this season before last week's wild brawl at Brookvale Oval, while Maurice Blair is struggling with a shoulder injury.

Manly will be without Glenn Stewart until deep into the finals and his brother Brett remains an indefinite absentee with a knee injury, plus they already have Jason King (pectoral) and David Williams (neck) out for the year.

Wests Tigers are hoping centre Chris Lawrence (hamstring) returns for the opening finals match, but they be minus forwards Todd Payten and Simon Dwyer.

North Queensland have lost a bit of impact with Tariq Sims (leg) and Antonio Winterstein (pectoral) gone, while the Warriors will be hoping to get Manu Vatuvei (wrist) and hooker Aaron Heremaia (hand) back in a hurry.

Newcastle squeezed into the finals with their win over South Sydney, but won't have first-choice centres Junior Sau and Wes Naiqama to call upon.

Given he returned the nucleus of the side which stormed to last year's title, Bennett said he didn't anticipate the slump which preceded the current two-game winning streak to be a factor in the finals.

The Dragons have a wealth of experienced campaigners in their squad, with every member of the backline have, with 13 of the top 17 having played Test or State of Origin football.

"The big occasion will be the key now, we just need the big occasion," Bennett said.

"It's the right time of the year for us.

"We've got big match players here now so you've got to assume it will (lift the squad) - it did against Melbourne and it did against the Tigers when we were out of form and struggling."

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