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Betham Back At Old Spot
PJ Marsh's neck injury has at least eased one problem for New Zealand Warriors coach Daniel Anderson ahead of the National Rugby League (NRL) match against North Queensland in Townsville on Saturday.
The composition of the back row is a weekly conundrum for Anderson, who admits it is one area where his team enjoy an "embarrassment of riches".
However, with Marsh sidelined ? he sees a specialist on Thursday when he will possibly be ruled out for the rest of the season ? captain Monty Betham is an ideal replacement at hooker, a position he first held at the club two years ago.
Betham returned to his original position against South Sydney last weekend and showed enough to satisfy Anderson he is a model stop-gap for the injured Queenslander.
"Monty is going fine there, he's leading well and his service is improving," Anderson said today after naming his team to take on the Cowboys.
"You have to remember he hasn't done it (dummy half) much for two years. He had last year off (injured) and he didn't expect to do it this season.
"His service is improving dramatically ? Stacey (Jones) is not catching as many balls at his feet or over his head."
Rookie Tevita Latu had two games at hooker but Anderson is so convinced Betham is in the right place the Warriors' kit manufacturers have a new order to fill.
"I've only been naming Monty in the No 13 jersey because the nines are small and designed for the littler blokes. We need another couple of jerseys made up that are bigger because Monty can't fit in them."
Betham's move frees up a spot in the back row although the imminent return of Ali Lauiti'iti will again add to the clutter.
Lauiti'iti's injury-enforced absence has not diminished the Warriors' potency, with Logan Swann, Awen Guttenbeil, Sione Faumuina, Wairangi Koopu and Betham all contributing.
Swann, Guttenbeil and Faumuina have been retained from the 31-30 golden point win over the Rabbitohs, with the only change in the pack up where Jerry Seuseu returns from a club-imposed two-week rest.
Mark Tookey drops to the bench to accommodate the Kiwis prop while the backline is unchanged.
North Queensland have lost their last four games by six points or less.
The Cowboys finished strongly the last time the sides met in April before going down 24-30 in Auckland, and Anderson believes former Warriors hardman Kevin Campion will have his teammates pumped up for the rematch.
"They're playing good football without any luck. It'll be a tough game and Campo will get them up for it. They were a little bit flat against Cronulla (a 28-34 loss) but they won't leave anything behind this week."
The Cowboys also have former Warriors wing David Myles in their ranks while prop Paul Rauhihi will be looking to press claims for a place in Anderson's Kiwis team to play the Kangaroos on July 25.
Meanwhile, Anderson was confident his team were finally emerging from a mid-season funk which saw them lose five of seven matches.
"It goes around. You need the bounce of the ball and a bit of luck. We might have got wins this year when we didn't play that well and we've also lost games we made a real effort at.
"We're scoring some nice tries and we've got some players in form at the moment."
Anderson admitted he was keen to avoid a repeat of last weekend's golden point drama although he found the experience educational.
"I learned a little bit about the golden point rule I never knew before ? strategy, even just the way to use your interchange. It was interesting but I don't want to practice it again to tell the truth."