Hagan facing Eels selection dilemma - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Hagan facing Eels selection dilemma

By Todd Balym and Steve Jancetic 10/09/2007 08:02:17 PM Comments (0)

Parramatta coach Michael Hagan faces a major selection dilemma ahead of Saturday's semi-final with the Bulldogs, with two of the biggest talents in the NRL at the centre of his predicament.

Hagan is in a Catch-22 situation after losing centre Ben Smith to a knee injury on Monday - deciding where to play his star in making Krisnan Inu while nullifying the destructive powers of the Dogs' Sonny Bill Williams.

Inexperienced back Joel Reddy will come into the squad for Smith but it would be a major gamble to play him in the centres, a position he's yet to start in first grade.

Hagan's other option is to switch Inu from the left wing to a right sided centre role.

But playing the green Reddy on the left has its complications - most notably exposing him to Williams and his dangerous offloads.

Hagan admits he's still undecided about how the Eels will line up for the semi final clash - with the winner to progress to an imposing preliminary final with Melbourne at Telstra Dome.

"I haven't really thought about that much yet to be honest," said Hagan.

"I think Joel will be good for us. He's played well all year when he's come in and we're confident in the fact he can get the job done."

But Hagan admits the loss of Smith will hurt the Eels.

The 22-year-old, who looks more like a forward than speedy outside back, is ranked second among centres in the NRL for most tackles this year.

"Defensively he's been excellent," said Hagan.

"He and (winger) Eric (Grothe) are good on that side.

"It's disappointing for him. His season is not over yet but it's going to be difficult for a week or two for him.

"It is possible (he will play again in 2007). But I think we would know more about it tomorrow (after an arthroscope)."

The Cowboys meanwhile cling to some hope of having Queensland Origin prop Carl Webb on the paddock against the New Zealand Warriors on Sunday.

Webb looked long odds of taking on the Warriors when he limped off with a calf injury midway through his side's 20-18 win over the Bulldogs, but North Queensland boss Peter Parr admits the club was sweating on the results of scans taken on Monday.

"It would be a big blow but he is not out yet," Parr said.

"If he is ruled out we have got enough depth there I think to cover it again.

"As I said a few times over the last few weeks you just play the cards you are dealt and that's what we will do again this weekend."

The loss of Webb would be a devastating blow for the Cowboys, who are already without first-choice forwards Luke O'Donnell, Steve Southern, Shane Tronc and Sione Faumuina for the remainder of the season.

"I don't think you could get five better players to be sitting on the sidelines if in fact Carl is ruled out," Parr said.

"But we have been handling it really well and Carl went off with 25 minutes to go on the weekend against one of the best packs in the competition and the boys handled it really well so if he is out it's just a little bit more adversity to handle."

Manly duo Glenn Stewart and Chris Hicks both received positive news regarding their ankle injuries, cleared of fractures after scans Monday and given some chance to play the preliminary final at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday September 22.

Stewart and Hicks both have partial ligament tears in their ankles and with intensive rehabilitation have enough time to recover to play the winner of the Cowboys and New Zealand Warriors.

"Fingers crossed and hopefully I'm still a chance, that's all I have got at the moment," Hicks told the Seven Network.

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