The Dragons faithful were up in arms when rising five-eighth Talatau Amone was benched, but it could be the best thing that ever happened to the Red V prodigy.
- Dragons five-eighth Talatau Amone has spent the last month coming off the bench
- An injury to Jack Bird could lead to his recall to the five-eighth spot
- If he is chosen, Amone will return to the starting 13 a more mature player
Amone lost the number six jersey after the 36-12 loss to Cronulla in Round 3 and has been riding the pine ever since and an arm injury to Jack Bird in the Anzac Day upset of the Roosters may have opened the door for one of the club’s brightest young talents to return to the starting side.
Bird has been named to play against the Tigers on Sunday but will go for further scans during the week.
Should Bird withdraw, coach Anthony Griffin has several options at his disposal.
Moses Mbye could move to the halves with either Cody Ramsey or Tyrell Sloan to come in at fullback, or Jayden Sullivan could slot in at five-eighth.
But Amone shapes as the natural replacement should Bird not be passed fit.
Griffin copped plenty of heat for benching Amone and dropping fellow young gun Sloan given the duo are tipped to be the future of the joint venture.
But player development is not always a linear process. Regardless of when Amone does return to the starting side, he’ll likely be a better player for it.
Plenty of young talents bounce in and out of sides as they find their feet at the top level, which is what St George Illawarra’s senior players such as Ben Hunt and Andrew McCullough have helped Amone understand over the past month.
“I get people want Junior in the side for whatever reason, but you have to understand he’s a young bloke and it’s a long year. Being able to spread that year out properly, a lot of teams do it,” McCullough said.
“Birdy has been playing there for a particular reason.
“It comes back to opportunity.
“We’re in Round 8, there’s 18 or 19 rounds to go, there’s a long time to go and a young kid developing in a pressure situation in a tough sport is going to get his chance.”
Amone could bounce back into the five-eighth jersey in good form after he produced some fine touches in the second half against the Roosters, including a line break via his sharp left- foot step.
If the 20-year old can stay the course, he’s every chance to continue on as Hunt’s halves partner as the Dragons look to continue breathing life into their resurrected season.
But even if Amone stays on the bench, the experience can still be a positive one in the long run.
“The experience of it all doesn’t need to be a strain,” McCullough said.
“He got a good chance at the back end of the game against the Roosters to show what he can do.
“We’ve all been through those tough periods.
“I’ve been in and out of teams, starting or off the bench, but you have to take that on even if you don’t enjoy it.
“It’s never going to be easy. It’s never going to be smooth.
“There’s always going to be dips in form.
“Being able to block that out and just worry about what you can do for the team, that’s how you take that experience with you when you get back on the field.”
The Red V will be hungry for a third straight win after wins over the Knights and Roosters breathed life into a campaign that was threatening to spiral beyond their control.
A win over the Tigers could propel them into the top eight for the first time since Round 1, and with Hunt playing some of the best football of his career they’re every chance of getting home.
Some have been surprised by Hunt’s purple patch, but not McCullough – the two Queenslanders have been teammates since they were kids and have a complete understanding of each other’s game.
“He’s been doing that for a while,” McCullough said.
“There should be plenty of praise for him.
“You can’t put it into words, he’s inspirational, and he’s been doing that for a while.
“I don’t want to give him too much of a wrap but leadership, setting standards, he’s always been able to do that.
“People might be seeing it now, but for me, it’s nothing out of the ordinary.”