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Injured St George Illawarra Dragons half back Mathew Head has been rated as an unlikely starter for the 2007 season following reports that teammate Ben Hornby will be wearing the No.7 jersey in March.
Head underwent knee surgery last October and was reportedly running at training last week. After battling with injury over the last two seasons, Head was hopeful of being available for the Dragons' season opening clash against the Gold Coast Titans at Suncorp Stadium on March 19. But latest indications are that the Dapto junior will not be fit until round five of the NRL.
"We're not expecting Heady to be fit [for round one], the doctors are talking about mid-April before he is 100 per cent right to go," coach Nathan Brown told The Sun Herald yesterday.
"He's set a target of getting back earlier and if that's achieved, that would be great.
"That's good, because he's putting himself under some pressure."
The Dragons have an able replacement in utility back Hornby who settled into the half back position during Head's absence in 2006. Hornby's value in the halves was recognised when he played a Test for Australia wearing the No.7 during the Tri-Nations last year.
"I see Hornby more as a halfback/five-eighth than a fullback," Brown said.
"Benny will start the season at halfback and Heady will come back at some stage.
"We know Benny is going to be fit for the start of the year and has played mostly halfback for the club in the past two years because of Heady's unfortunate injuries.
"That challenge is another reason for Heady to work hard.
"He will take a few games to get going and when he does reach full fitness and is playing really well, we've got a decision to make."
Debuting for Saints in 2003, Head got his chance for a regular first grade spot after half back Brett Firman suffered a broken leg in early 2004. Head took over and made such an impact that Firman was granted a release in mid-2004.
A star performer for the Dragons in 2004, Head played 23 NRL games and was the club