McIlwrick set for big break at Waddell's expense
Junior Kiwi international Matt McIlwrick will make his NRL debut for the Raiders on Sunday, raising questions about hooker Travis Waddell's future at the club.
Off contract at the end of the season, Waddell has been relegated to Canberra's NSW Cup affiliate Mounties to make way for 20-year-old McIlwrick.
McIlwrick's inclusion is one of three changes to the Raiders team which lost 30-6 to the Brisbane Broncos at Suncorp Stadium.
Lock forward Shaun Fensom returns from a torn bicep while Sam Williams moves into the halves to replace Raiders captain Terry Campese, sidelined for the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
Waddell began the season as the Raiders' starting dummy-half, but lost the No.9 jersey to Glen Buttriss after three games. He has averaged just over 26 minutes of playing time since being dropped to the bench and has struggled to make an impact.
This was seen as a make-or-break year for Waddell after he managed just six first-grade appearances last season.
The Raiders wanted to assess the 22-year-old's early-season form before deciding whether to offer the Indigenous All Stars representative another deal.
Buttriss and McIlwrick are both under contract until the end of 2013, while the Raiders could also possibly call on former Panthers hooker Maseda Iosefa, who is also playing with Mounties.
Raiders coach David Furner said Waddell needed to fix a couple of facets in his game to earn a recall.
''I've spoken to Travvy about what he needs to work on - game time is a big one and just looking at his passing game and his running game,'' Furner said.
''He just needs to play good football. Matty McIlwrick suits our style better against the Sharks.''
Christchurch-born McIlwrick joined the Raiders' junior system in 2008 and was a regular in the club's Toyota Cup side from 2009-2011.
There he developed a successful combination with Williams, one which the pair have strengthened during their time at Mounties this year.
''Sammy's played a lot of footy with Matty at nine and seven … that's going to be pretty crucial,'' Furner said. ''Cronulla are up there with Melbourne and Brisbane as one of the consistent sides in the competition.''
Furner said NSW fullback Josh Dugan would be monitored at training tomorrow but at this stage was unlikely to make his comeback from a ruptured shoulder joint this weekend.