By STEVE MASCORD
ENGLAND five-eighth Gareth Widdop is “going to be playing this weekend”, according to Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy.
Initially ruled out for the the rest of the NRL season and the World Cup after suffering an horrific dislocated hip against Gold Coast on June 24, Widdop is pencilled in to play for feeder team Brisbane Easts in Mackay on Sunday.
When he does return to the Storm side for the finals, there is school of thought he could be used as a centre. Co-incidentally, one current Melbourne centre Justin O’Neill (back) is the main injury doubt for the return clash with the Titans this Saturday.
“It’s pretty remarkable that he’s playing,” said coach Bellamy. “He’s been running for a couple of weeks but I never took it too seriously that he’d be back.
“But last week the physio came to me and said ‘I think Gareth’s a good chance of playing again’. I said ‘well, that’s good news but we’ve got to make sure that’s realistic, I suppose’. He’s had a full medical clearance and the other thing that I had to be sure of was that he was 100 per cent keen to play. He’s certainly that. He’s more than that.”
Widdop needed to get through Wednesday’s Gosch’s Paddock training session to play on Sunday.
Bellamy continued: “He’s ticked some boxes. He’s done some contact here today and at this stage, he’s going to be playing this weekend.
“It will be interesting to see how he gets through that. If he gets through that … it will be a nice present for us going into the semi-finals.
“He hasn’t played any footy for three months but he is in real good shape but he’s not in game shape, obviously. But he’s played two or three years of solid first grade now.”
The Storm plan to make some technical adjustments regarding their openings to matches after a comprehensive round 25 loss to Manly.
Bellamy said: “We’re going to try a couple of other things that we think might work. Getting this close to the semis, we have to turn it around.
“A big part of our game before last week was our defence.
“It’s a mental state to start the game.”
The Storm coach also reckoned that despite denials, South Sydney and Sydney Roosters were distracted by their looming minor premiership tussle when they played Wests Tigers and Gold Coast respectively last week.
“I’d image after what’s happened the last three or four weeks, Souths would be the favourite,” he said. “They’re in a bit better form at the moment, they just seem to have a bit more momentum.
“I’m sure the Roosters will be up for it, they’ve had a wonderful season, but their momentum has been slowed, probably, by their last two efforts.
“Perhaps some of the Roosters’ minds might have been on Friday night. Souths, some of their minds last Friday night, could have been on this week’s game. It’s a huge game Friday night. A minor premiership, it’s a huge accolade for your club.”
NB: Since this story appeared, Gareth Widdop made a successful return from injury in the Queensland Cup
Filed for: THE AGE