St George Illawarra coach Anthony Griffin may be forced to turn to rookie backs Mat Feagai, Shaun Sauni-Esau and Tyrell Sloan after injuries to Zac Lomax and Cody Ramsey in Sunday’s 16-8 loss to Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium.
With wingers Mikaele Ravalawa and Jordan Pereira suspended, Max Feagai was called up for just his second NRL appearances against the Tigers and his twin Mat will come under consideration by Griffin as he runs low on backline options for next Sunday’s clash with Canterbury.
Lomax is expected to face about a month on the sidelines after being forced from the field midway through the first half with a thumb injury, while Ramsey suffered a rib injury late in the match.
Centre Brayden Williame is unavailable due to a calf injury, leaving and Mat Feagai, Sauni-Esau and Sloan, who played fullback for the Steelers team which lost 28-24 in Saturday’s SG Ball grand final against Canberra, as the only other specialist outside backs in the Dragons' NRL squad.
"You don’t want to be an outside back on our list at the moment," Griffin said. "We're going to have to go deep into our list and look at our options.
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"Zac has dislocated his thumb. They're not sure if there was any other damage so they'll get him straight off for scans and to see the specialist in the morning. With Cody, it looks like a broken rib. Brayden Williame has a torn calf as well so we're obviously very light on there."
The Dragons led 6-0 early but after Lomax was injured making a tackle on his try line in the 19th minute, the Tigers directed their attack down the right edge where he would usually defend alongside Ravalawa.
Back-rower Billy Burns was forced to play centre, with Max Feagai outside him on the wing but Griffin shifted the right-edge pairing of Jack Bird and Ramsey to that side until the latter came from the field 13 minutes before full-time.
The Tigers had just taken a 16-8 lead after rookie winger Zac Cini crossed for his first NRL try in the 48th minute and centre Joey Leilua pushed off an attempted Bird tackle to score in the 65th minute.
"I thought we did a great job with the changes we made, losing Lomax and Ramsey," Griffin said.
"I think we had to defend 55 plays in our 20 [metre zone] and we had 10 up the other end.
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"They got us on a scrum and the last play. And one from Leilua.
"I can't fault their effort, they keep turning up defensively. We coughed up too much ball and when we did get the ball we couldn't get out of our own end.
"You've got to give some credit to the Tigers. It was clearly the best game they've played all year."