St. George-Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregor is set for a selection headache for his upcoming away fixture against the Newcastle Knights. Who will he retain the services of: Kurt Mann, partnering centre Tim Lafai on the wing OR Kalifa Fai Fai Loa, who has been solid defensively since returning to the Red V this year.
The Queensland-born Kurt Mann was a big signing for St.George-Illawarra and spent the 2016 preseason at fullback, eventually going on to lead from the back for the first two rounds of the regular season, turning in a solid effort against his old club in Round 1, setting up a try, getting a linebreak and running for 98 metres. In Round 2, against arch-rivals Cronulla Sharks, however, Kurt’s fullback experiment hit rock bottom, turning in a lacklustre performance which relegated him to the NSW Cup for 9 weeks and reinstated Josh Dugan back to his custodian role at fullback. In Round 12, the former Melbourne centre was recalled to the squad on the wing, where he’s now scored 4 tries in his last 3 appearances (including a double).
The Dragons have struggled to put points on the board this season and both Fai Fai Loa and Mann have contributed to a majority of the team’s try tally, but with the latter winger’s speed playing a pivotal role in the Dragon’s attacking ambitions, he certainly puts forward a strong case for retaining his spot in the no. 5 jersey. With Josh Dugan set to return next week at fullback, that would push Nightingale to the right edge, where he would partner boom centre Euan Aitken.
The Red V face a struggling Newcastle in Round 16, on Saturday afternoon and with Kurt Mann’s try-scoring consistency over the short term, Kalifa Fai Fai Loa finds his regular spot in the 17 in jeopardy, it’s going to be interesting to see how things unfold over the next few days.