St George Illawarra prop James Graham has defended Paul McGregor’s controversial selection shake-up after the embattled coach named a 25-year-old debutant at half-back ahead of Monday’s must-win clash against Canterbury.
Lower-grade veteran Adam Clune will make his NRL debut for the winless Red V in the No.7 jumper.
Struggling half-back Ben Hunt has been named at five-eighth, while Corey Norman will start at full-back after both were slammed by critics following Saturday’s 18-0 loss to the New Zealand Warriors.
Livewire Matt Dufty has been left out of the 21-man squad, while veteran hooker Issac Luke has been named on the bench after his surprise omission from the Warriors loss.
According to reports McGregor, who is contracted until the end of 2021, has just two more games to avoid the axe.
But the former Canterbury captain backed his coach’s selection changes and declared his Red V team-mates ‘owe it’ to their boss to ‘be better’ against the winless Bulldogs.
“I wouldn’t look at it as panic, I’d look at it as keeping people accountable and some people have earned their way back into the team,” Graham told Fox Sports’ NRL 360.
“The stuff we’ve spoken about in terms of breaking that negative feedback, that’s private, that’s within the group and I don’t think it’s fair for me to divulge that information out there.
“We’re preparing well so far but we know we’re coming up against a very determined Canterbury side in similar circumstances to us and we’re not naïve enough to think they might not jag the first points but we need to be better as a group in how we respond to that.
“I don’t think it’s an easy fix but it’s just going to require a lot of hard work from the playing group and the 13 that are on there at the time.”
Meanwhile, there is speculation Bulldogs coach Dean Pay will be sacked by The Family Club with a loss to the Dragons.
Veteran Kieran Foran has been named in the No.7 jumper for the Dogs after overcoming off-season shoulder surgery.