Date: August 11 2012
THE absence of a specialist fullback after Tim Moltzen's decision to renege on a deal and remain with Wests Tigers has cost St George Illawarra dearly this season, according to former Dragons halfback Mathew Head.
The two joint-venture clubs meet tonight at Allianz Stadium and while the atmosphere is not expected to be anywhere near as hostile towards Moltzen at the Tigers' home game as it was when the teams met earlier this year at Kogarah, Dragons insiders are still fuming at his decision.
While Test wingers Jason Nightingale and Brett Morris have done a good job whenever they have played in the role, neither trained at fullback during the off-season as St George Illawarra coach Steve Price decided to give the No.1 jersey to boom utility Kyle Stanley.
However, the move did not work out and without a pre-season training at fullback, Head said there was no way Nightingale or Morris could perform the role as well as Moltzen, or the man he was signed to replace, Darius Boyd, would have.
''A specialist fullback is definitely as important as a seven or a nine these days and if you don't have one, you tend to struggle a bit,'' said Head, who is assistant coach of Cronulla's NSW Cup team and the Sharks' goal-kicking coach.
''In attack, the fullback is like a second halfback. He has to have good eyes, know who to pass to and when to pass and when to kick.
''Nightingale and Morris both have their running games down pat and they can both pass but it is just knowing when to pass and who to pass to. It takes time - maybe a couple of pre-seasons - to adapt to that part of the game.
''Some blokes are naturals at it and some blokes aren't, so maybe after a pre-season they would have been better at it - but, from everything I heard, Kyle was going to be fullback and he started the season there so they would have done the majority of their pre-season with him at the back.''
Dragons officials are considering taking legal action over the loss of Moltzen and are waiting to assess the full impact of his decision to walk away from a three-year deal with the club before deciding whether it is worthwhile.
''Tim is a good player. I played with him at the Tigers. He is smart and plays like a halfback,'' Head said. ''I would have thought he would have been the No.1 at the Dragons but, unfortunately, all of that stuff happened and there probably wasn't anyone for Pricey to go over.''
In other developments, Sydney Roosters winger Justin Carney has signed a two-year deal with British Super League club Castleford and Brisbane under-20s centre Matt Berwick was in a coma yesterday after a car accident on Thursday night. Berwick, who scored two tries in last Sunday's Toyota Cup match against Canberra, recently signed a contract extension with the Broncos.
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