2018 PREVIEW 🔍 Perennial underachievers? Our fifteenth preview is here. Andrew Ferguson assesses whe...
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A fitness test this morning will determine the grand final fate of giant Wests Tigers winger Pat Richards, with young flyer Shannon McDonnell poised to rekindle memories of another Tim Sheens selection stunt on the eve of the grand final.
Richards will attempt to run at full pace at Telstra Stadium under the watchful eye of the club's medical and coaching staff.
The ESL-bound winger sounded hopeful after a visit to the club doctor.
"He just said it comes down to how I run in the fitness test," Richards said.
"There's still a bit of hope there, but there's also a bit of doubt so I've just got to wait and see how I perform."
The man waiting in the wings is 18-year-old schoolboy McDonnell who has played just one game of NRL.
Coach Tim Sheens will make a decision between McDonnell and fellow winger Matthew Rieck on Saturday, but Richards could be given until an hour before kick-off tomorrow to prove his fitness if this morning's run goes well.
McDonnell's father Warren, who is also the Tigers' recruitment manager, said his son was still hoping Richards would be passed fit, despite the obvious appeal of a grand final berth.
"He's obviously excited, but he's fully expecting Pat Richards to play," Warren McDonnell said.
"But just the experience of the week, the experience of training with the boys and the experience of the grand final breakfast and the night before and going through the hype of the week will be enormous for him in years to come."
"Tim hasn't made the final decision on who's going to take his place, Shannon's one of a couple of options, but they've all got to prepare as if they're playing."
Warren McDonnell said Shannon, who still lives at home with his parents will complete his HSC later this year. "He wouldn't be human if he wasn't excited and nervous," Warren McDonnell said.
"He's rapt in one way, he's nervous in another way but he himself wants Pat to play.
"Pat deserves it. He's played every single minute of the regular season and hasn't missed a match this year. Everyone wants Pat to play."
Shannon McDonnell played most of the year in the Tigers' struggling Premier League outfit before being called-up to make his first grade debut against Penrith for the final round of the regular season in place of the injured Daniel Fitzhenry.
"The kid could have played SG ball this year and playing Premier League was a great experience," Warren McDonnell said.
"He made NSW under 17s last year and he made NSW under 19s this year, a year ahead of himself, so he's had a good year.
"He only turned 18 last month so this week is a great experience for him, whatever happens."