Journeyman wins grand final berth
GEOFF Toovey has promoted much-travelled rugby league journeyman David Gower to Manly's grand final bench, leaving 21-year-old rookie James Hasson in jersey No.18 and without a start in the biggest game of the year.
The Sea Eagles were forced to make a change with fearless forward Richie Fa'aoso sidelined after fracturing his neck in last weekend's grand final qualifier.
And with co-captain Jason King sidelined and 19-year-old Jake Trbojevic considered too inexperienced for the grand final stage, Toovey had to choose between the two novices who have started just one NRL match each in 2013.
In a somewhat surprise non-selection, Boyd Cordner has not been named for the Roosters who have selected the same 17 who beat the Knights 40-14 last weekend.
Cordner, who made his Origin debut this season, has not played since breaking his ankle against the Raiders in round 22 - seven weeks ago.
But there is an expectation that Cordner may still be a late inclusion, with Roosters coach Trent Robinson saying on Monday that if Cordner passed a fitness test, a lack of match fitness would not be an issue.
"Match fitness will not be an issue with Boyd, not with his attitude and the way he trains and plays the game," said Robinson who has taken the Roosters to the grand final in his rookie year as an NRL coach.
A Balmain junior, Gower is a true journeyman having made his top grade debut with Salford in England before playing just 19 NRL games with the Wests Tigers, Dragons and Sea Eagles - 11 of them this year with
Gower, who turned 28 on Monday and is still unsigned for next season, debuted for the Wests Tigers in 2009 and played just one top grade match in two seasons before joining the
Dragons in 2011.
And typical of the battler he has been, when Gower was told he would be the one replacing his injured teammate he immediately thought of Fa'aoso.
"I feel sad for Richie. He has played a bigger part in this year of success than either James or me, and he deserved to be there on Sunday," he said. "But typical of Richie, earlier in the week he wished both of us good luck."
And Gower was philosophical about his future, saying he would love to stay at Manly but was aware of the club's financial constraints. "Hopefully I can contribute to a grand final win and I might impress other clubs," he said.
Peta Hiku, who was
outstanding in his two finals appearances when Brett Stewart was injured, has been named as 19th man for the Sea Eagles.
Mitchell Pearce, sent home from Roosters training on
Monday because of fears his virus may run through the team, has been named and will play.
His combination with James Maloney in the halves is seen as pivotal against Manly duo Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran.