Boyd Cordner. Photo: Getty Images
Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson will wait until Saturday to decide whether to risk Boyd Cordner after a seven-week layoff, with the form of Aidan Guerra believed to be causing a selection headache for the rookie coach.
Fairfax Media understands Robinson always intended to play Cordner in the premiership decider, but Guerra's impressive form has him questioning whether to take a gamble on a player who has not played in almost two months.
Injuries have cast a cloud over the make-up of both the Roosters and Sea Eagles for Sunday, but there is no bigger decision leading into the grand final than whether Cordner, a potential bolter for the Kangaroos World Cup squad, is worth rolling the dice for.
The back-rower has not played since injuring his ankle against Canberra in round 22, and while Robinson has all the faith in Cordner, the coach is understood to be reluctant to bring him into the side at the expense of Guerra.
''A guy like Boyd Cordner, people see a 21-year-old,'' Robinson said.
''We don't see that. He has some experience, is a tough man and is also a realist. He isn't going to let the boys down by playing if he isn't ready to play 80 minutes.
''Just the enormity of the game puts a lot of pressure on these decisions. People think about these games for the rest of their lives, so playing a guy or not playing a guy is really important. But we're really comfortable with the selections we are going to make, so it hasn't been an issue for us. I've left one [of Cordner and O'Donnell] up to game day. But it'll be made on Saturday.''
Cordner was considered close to being fit for last Saturday's preliminary final against Newcastle.
Guerra, who has been filling in on the left edge Cordner made his own for most of the season, produced one of his better games of the year against the Knights last week to leave Robinson with a selection conundrum.
While a decision on Cordner is based on team chemistry, Luke O'Donnell will retain his position in the team if he can prove he has overcome the hamstring injury that forced him to miss last week's preliminary final.
Manly coach Geoff Toovey has a similar headache trying to decide who will replace Richie Fa'aoso on the bench for the Sea Eagles after the former Melbourne premiership winner broke his neck against South Sydney in the preliminary final.
James Hasson and David Gower have been named in an extended squad and were expected to be in a two-horse race for the final bench spot, but veteran Joe Galuvao has since come into calculations.
Galuvao, who will retire after Sunday's grand final, has not played since rupturing his Achilles in round six against Cronulla. He trained with the side this week in a bid to make an unlikely comeback.
While Toovey would not rule out a fairytale finish for the former premiership-winning Panthers forward, he admitted Galuvao was unlikely to play for his third title in a 16-year career. ''He's in the mix but it'll be highly unlikely,'' Toovey said. ''He's had 20 weeks off and underwent a major surgery coming back from an Achilles injury. He trained hard this week trying to prove himself. He's in the mix but he's a long shot.''
Robinson is aware Galuvao may well be a late inclusion. ''Obviously that's an option,'' he said.