Star fullback Luke Dorn will play at halfback as the Maitland Pickers look to stem their poor starts and find direction in attack against Lakes United at Coronation Oval on Saturday.
The move comes as the Pickers injury list continues to grow with centre George O’Brien to miss three weeks with an elbow injury and a cloud over forward Rob Mason who is battling a sternum injury.
The Pickers also continue to miss the energy and drive of Newcastle Rebels representatives Jarrod and Lincoln Smith and will be without Jayden Butterfield who has been recalled to the Knights under-20 side.
Pickers coach Trevor Ott said the injuries were testing the Pickers depth, but their biggest problems were giving up big first-half leads through errors and a poor kicking game.
“We have trailed in all four games at half-time and gave up big leads in three of those. We were able to get back into the first three games on the effort of our forwards, but it told on Saturday and we just had no answers to Kurri Kurri.
“I think we were up for three big games and then hit the wall. We had six players missing from the week before, a couple of 40-20s and errors early in the tackle count and we never recovered.
“We need the halves to take the pressure of our forwards. Our forwards are doing so much and I think that probably showed on the weekend.
“I need Dorny to get more ball. We’re hoping he can give us the spark and direction we need.
“Liam Fauglin will move back to fullback and he has plenty of experience and we’re confident he will do well back there.”
Jake Hawkins will start at hooker, where he played in Dapto’s title winning side last year, and Blake Birch will partner Dorn in the halves.
Mason has been named on the bench, subject to a fitness test, and Jarron Costelloe returns from injury to play in the back-row to cover for Patty Robards, who is likely to miss another six or seven weeks with a facial injury.
Several players will have fitness tests, including Matt Ireland who has been named at centre with Trent Papa.
Ireland, who played for the Newcastle Rebels in 2012, played a couple of games last year with the Pickers after a stint with South Newcastle.
“Matt was only able to mainly do the conditioning work this preseason but he’s shown some good form in reserves and deserves a shot in first grade,” Ott said.
1, Liam Faughlin, 2.Josh Morrison, 3. Matt Ireland, 4, Trent Papa, 5.Jackson Tynan, 6. Blake Birch, 7. Luke Dorn, 8. Jacob Sinclair, 9. Jake Hawkins, 10. Dane Tilse, 11. Jarron Costelloe, 12. Tylar Carter, 13. Brenton Horwood. Interchange: Hayden Grainger, Josh Papworth, Rob Mason, Todd Mckenzie and Jayden Hocking.