How Gareth Widdop’s game plan hinges on St George Illawarra Dragons’ halves call

GARETH Widdop admits he will need to alter his game plan depending on who his halves partner is this season.

Coach Paul McGregor is yet to decide who will wear St George Illawarra’s No. 7 jumper when the Dragons kick off their 2017 campaign against Penrith on Saturday week.

Josh McCrone and Jai Field are believed to be the only two players in contention for the halfback role.

McCrone is a “veteran” of 140 games who has failed to nail down a spot in the NRL over the past two years between Canberra and Wollongong.

Field is the 19-year-old whiz kid who lit up the Auckland Nines and has tongues wagging.

If Widdop does know which one will partner him next week, he’s not letting on.

“Obviously in the next few days Mary (McGregor) is going to make a decision,” Widdop said.

“Josh McCrone and Jai Field have both played there so he’ll make a decision early on so we can prepare well for next week.”

And Widdop concedes he may need to adopt a different game plan to cater for his halves partner throughout the season.

Over 2016 Widdop was able to play the creative, running five-eighth role he savours, sticking largely on the left-hand side of the park.

Halfback Benji Marshall controlled the game and allowed his No. 6 to a little free rein.

Widdop says if Field plays, he may not be able to play that same brand of football.

“I guess Josh is well experienced, he’s played a lot of games whereas Jai is fresh into it,” Widdop said.

“No doubt when you’re a young kid you’re a little bit quiet, a little bit nervous, so I suppose (my role will change) a little bit.”

Field was one of the young stars who caught the eye of everyone during the Nines tournament earlier this month.

He scored a couple of scintillating tries and showed his natural speed and running game.

But if he does get called up to make his NRL debut next week he will no doubt need to play a more structured style of football.

Josh McCrone of the Dragons.
Josh McCrone of the Dragons.Source: Getty Images

Either way, Widdop is excited to see the teenager make the step up.

“Obviously Jai is a special talent but it’s still early on so he’s got plenty more pre-seasons ahead of him to get his body right,” he said.

“He’s a great young talent.”