James Maloney has declared his intention to see out the final two years of his Penrith contract amidst persistent rumours he will head to the English Super League at the end of the 2019 season.
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Gareth Widdop can star for St George Illawarra in the fullback jersey but he must begin believing in himself, according to Dragons coach Paul McGregor.
Widdop will start at fullback in the NRL for the first time since he left Melbourne in 2012 against North Queensland on Saturday night.
It comes as part of a shift in the Dragons’ burgeoning spine to accommodate the arrival of Corey Norman, with Widdop set to move home to England next season.
Before that though, McGregor expects his fullback shift to pay dividends, with the Englishman set to inject himself through the middle and link directly with Ben Hunt and Norman.
“Gareth sometimes has got to know how good he is,” McGregor said.
“They (Widdop, Hunt and Norman) will play pendulum through the middle third.They’ll link either side of the field and complement each other well, and they’ll improve as the season gets on.”
Widdop most recently played fullback in 2017 World Cup for England, named man-of-the-match in three of his four games in the role.
“Gareth at the back frees him up a bit,” McGregor said.
“He’s been training there for three months now. He’s had good prep. He understands the game better than most and he is our captain so he will have a good voice there as well.”
Meanwhile, McGregor warned there could be games where super sub Matt Dufty doesn’t get on the field this NRL season.
Re-signed until the end of 2021 last month, Dufty will likely go back to fullback next year but is set to start 2019 as the crucial bench utility in the concussion era.
The 23-year-old is mostly expected to play at fullback when on the field as part of a switch that would see Widdop revert to the halves, Hunt go to hooker and Cameron McInnes to lock.
“That will depend on game scenarios and the position we are in at different stages in the game,” McGregor said.
“If we do get an injury somewhere we can move Cam to 13 and Hunty to No.9 and bring Duft on the field. Chasing points, it’s pretty exciting when you’ve got all them on the field together.
“There might be games where your 17th man doesn’t get on the field either. Because you’ve got to carry an outside back or utility on the interchange to cover an injury.”
“And that’s what usually a No.17 does, you rotate your three forwards a little bit and you use your 17 if you have an injury or you want to change your game up a little bit.”