By Chrish Kennedy (NRL.com)
After an understated but vital role in his side's upset win over South Sydney on Sunday, Dragons utility Josh McCrone says he's happy to fill whatever role presents itself in Paul McGregor's first grade side – even if it's filling water bottles.
The former Raider was told on Thursday to start preparing himself for the possibility first-choice halfback Benji Marshall wouldn't recover from a hamstring strain in time to face the Rabbitohs, and he responded with a composed 80 minutes in which he and senior half Gareth Widdop kicked the Bunnies out of the game.
With the benefit of a superior error and penalty count and determined work in the middle from his forwards, McCrone combined with Widdop to force four drop outs to the Rabbitohs' none, kicking for a combined 539 metres against 439 for opposing halves Luke Keary and Cody Walker.
In pouring rain and with huge puddles and plenty of mud on the pitch, no-frills footy with low errors and good kick-chases were the order of the day and to a man the Red V worked to a plan.
After the match, McCrone was downplaying his own role in the impressive 8-6 win.
"I didn't have to do much out there besides kick a football really. I was lucky the yardage went down the other side or through the middle so it was a pretty easy job for me," McCrone said.
"'Gaz' was awesome for me too. We did a fair bit of good-ball kicking and found a few repeat sets so that makes a big difference in weather like that."
McCrone said when he joined the Dragons he "was was under no illusion" that Marshall and Widdop were the first choice halves with Mitch Rein the number one hooker but was just looking to take whatever opportunities presented themselves throughout the season.
"I just wanted to have a good pre-season and get prepared for the opportunity and hopefully I took a step in taking that," he said of his club debut. "I'm happy with the way the season is building."
The first two rounds of 2016 saw McCrone split his time 50/50 between hooker and half for Dragons feeder side the Illawarra Cutters, which he said is probably a bit do to with both what the Cutters require and to fulfil McGregor's contingency plans for first grade.
"The first week in the [Intrust Super Premiership] I played a bit of hooker then the second week I was a lot better and this week another win so I'm happy with the way the season's building so there's still a fair way to go.
"I've been sort of playing 40 minutes halves, 40 minutes hooker so I can cover any injuries in first grade but I'm happy to get a crack at half.
"I'm happy to fill a spot anywhere in first grade. I don't care if I'm filling water bottles, I'm happy to be there."
In the post match press conference, McGregor wasn't sure how soon Marshall would be back but praised McCrone's efforts filling in.
"We gave [Marshall] up to game day but he hurt himself late in the session on Thursday and had a slight strain there and we certainly weren't going to risk him this early in the season and I thought Josh did a really good job with Gaz," McGregor said.
A decision on Marshall's availability to face the Panthers next Sunday at Wollongong will be made later in the week, he added.
"But we're very comfortable if he has to have another week that Josh can do a good job there."
Told of McGregor's post-match comments, McCrone said: "It's awesome to hear but I'm here to fill a role at the moment so I'm happy to do that and play the season as it goes."