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4 days ago
Manly fullback Brett Stewart has laughed off a training mishap at Narrabeen which sent a minor scare through the Sea Eagles camp. Stewart left the field after just a few minutes of training, cradling his right thumb, but he says he has only jarred it and will definitely be available for next week's grand final qualifier at the Sydney Football Stadium.
Coach Des Hasler says the Sea Eagles should be close to full strength for the match, with props Brent Kite and Glenn Hall near certainties to come back from injury. Several Sea Eagles players sat out training today but Hasler says his only real concern for next week's game is winger Chris Hicks with a torn ankle ligament.
Across town, Parramatta coach Michael Hagan has named Joel Reddy in the centres to replace the injured Ben Smith for Saturday night's NRL semi-final against the Bulldogs at Telstra Stadium.
Smith injured his knee in last week's 12-10 victory over the Warriors in Auckland and underwent arthroscopic surgery today in a bid to play again this season.
Hagan says he has full confidence in Reddy ahead of Saturday night, despite the fact Reddy has played most of his 14 first grade games on the wing. The Eels are otherwise unchanged for the semi-final from the team that beat the New Zealand Warriors in Auckland last Friday night.
Saturday's winner will face minor premier Melbourne the following weekend for a place in the grand final.
Meanwhile, Shayne Hayne and Tony Archer have been handed the refereeing duties for this weekend's semi-finals.
Hayne has been put in charge of the Parramatta v Bulldogs game at Telstra Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night. Archer will officiate the North Queensland v New Zealand Warriors clash at Dairy Farmers Stadium in Townsville on Sunday.
The NRL will employ two video referees for each game, with Bill Harrigan and Chris Ward at Sydney and Phil Cooley and Tim Mander heading to Townsville.
Up north, Gold Coast chief executive Michael Searle says a reformed Chris Walker will be offered a long-term deal if he makes the most of his second chance at the club next year. The 27-year-old Walker has agreed to terms for a one-year contract extension after bouncing back from a controversial start to the 2007 season.
Walker appeared to have burnt the NRL lifeline offered by the Titans in 2007 when banned him for eight weeks after a drunken incident in a Gold Coast nightclub earlier this year. But Walker sought treatment for alcohol-related problems and earned a Titans recall.
Searle says the former State of Origin player has been offered the incentive of a long-term deal after 2008 if he continues to do well.