27 hours ago
Soward dumped by Dragons
St George Illawarra halfback Jamie Soward has been dumped to park football as coach Nathan Brown again shuffled the deck in a bid to find a winning combination.
Soward will be assigned a team in the local Illawarra competition later this week after paying the price for the Dragons' dismal 20-16 loss to North Queensland on Saturday night.
Mr Fix-it Ben Hornby has been thrust into the No.7 jumper for Saturday's must-win clash against the Bulldogs.
Halfback is Hornby's fourth position in just six weeks of NRL football.
He started the season at five-eighth before being moved back to his more accustomed fullback position for the next three weeks, the former Test representative pushed into hooker against the Cowboys.
After the game Brown said he was keen to continue with the experiment of Hornby at dummy half, but Soward's continued poor form and the loss of star centre Mark Gasnier (calf) forced his hand.
It's a remarkable fall from grace for Soward who not so long ago was viewed a long-term solution to the club's halfback woes.
Brett Morris and Michael Lett have also been recalled while Chase Stanley returns from a shoulder injury in place of Gasnier, who is expected to be out until round ten.
Matt Utai is back for the Bulldogs in place of point-scoring machine Hazem El Masri (hamstring) while Gary Warburton has been called up to make his top grade debut off the bench in place of Michael Sullivan (hand).
There were no surprises from Parramatta coach Michael Hagan, with Feleti Mateo moving back to partner Brett Finch in the halves for Friday's night's clash with Manly.
It comes following Tim Smith's plea to be stood down from all football as he heads back to the Gold Coast to be closer to his family as he continues to deal with the effects of bipolar disorder.
Young playmaker Kris Keating will make his NRL debut off the bench after brother Matt was elevated to the starting line-up at hooker to replace the injured Mark Riddell (sternum).
"He's a versatile player whose skills mean he can play hooker or in the halves equally well," Hagan said of Keating.
"We rely on the back up that Mark Riddell's kicking game provides so we lose nothing in that department.
"He's a fairly mature character too so I've no doubt he'll handle the step up well."
The Sea Eagles have also been forced into making a change with backrower Anthony Watmough replaced by Adam Cuthbertson after the NSW Origin hopeful was ruled out for between 2-4 weeks with an ankle injury.
"It's a blow, he's been in great form, Anthony, but hopefully it is something we can get him over pretty quick," Manly coach Des Hasler said.
Sydney Roosters youngster Setaimata Sa is a surprise inclusion in the centres for Sunday's match against Newcastle in Gosford.
Sa was on Monday ruled out for 4-6 weeks but scan results came back better than expected and the utility is now rated a 50-50 chance of taking on the Knights.
Off-season recruits Willie Mason and Mark O'Meley were also named after recovering from knee and hamstring injuries respectively.
Kurt Gidley was named at halfback for the Knights with Wes Naiqama slotting in at fullback and Adam MacDougall coming into the centres.
Ashley Harrison will replace Mat Rogers at five-eighth for the Gold Coast's local derby against Brisbane.
Rogers will front the NRL judiciary on Wednesday night in a bid to have a three-game dangerous throw ban reduced to one match.