Nightingale: Putting On An Old Glove
By Jack Brady (NRL.com)
Dragons duo Gareth Widdop and Jason Nightingale have put their stamp of approval on Kurt Mann's imminent return to the NRL.
Mann was the heir apparent to the Dragons' No. 1 jumper in light of Josh Dugan's move to the centres in the pre-season before being dropped to Intrust Super Premiership after the Dragons' first two games.
The 23-year-old's performance against the Sharks in Round 2 attracted plenty of criticism after he made four errors in the 30-2 loss.
However Widdop – who has known Mann since their days at Melbourne together – was backing him to star on the wing against North Queensland on Saturday night.
"He had a rough start there Kurt but he's gone back to reserve grade, done a good job and earned his recall," Widdop told NRL.com.
"He's versatile Kurt, he can play a number of positions so it's very nice to see him back."
Nightingale added his excitement of Mann's return and agreed with the co-captain
"Kurt's done a great job getting back into the team," said Nightingale.
"He's been playing quite a bit in reserve grade and it goes to show the level of trust Mary has for him.
"Kurt's definitely a hard worker and a hard trainer and has been doing all the right things to get back into our squad so I'm very excited to have him there."
Nightingale has been named at fullback for the first time since 2013 and laughed off suggestions it was a smother for Mann's return to the custodian role.
"I've played there a lot throughout my career, on and off," said Nightingale.
"Especially through past Origin periods. It is like putting on an old glove but definitely the fatigue level will be a factor after not playing it for so long.
"You do a lot more running than what you expect because you're not exactly sure how to do the role so you just try and do everything.
"The lungs will be hurting more."
Another man who will make his anticipated return for the Dragons is Benji Marshall, who Widdop hopes has overcome his troublesome hamstring woes he's dealt with throughout the year.
Widdop's role has changed on a weekly basis in 2016 with him alternating in the halves with Marshall and Josh McCrone regularly.
The Dragons' scored a season-high 24 points against the Rabbitohs last Thursday night and Widdop has high hopes with Marshall's inclusion.
"It's been hard to get going pretty much the whole season to be fair. Hopefully this is the start of [Marshall] playing consecutive football," Widdop said.
"The biggest thing for me has been my role has changed a little bit week-in, week-out.
"It's been hard to get some consistency so hopefully if Benji is back for good we can start to refine our roles."