Ben Talty will return for Lakes in Sunday’s Newcastle Rugby League grand final as coach Todd Edwards looks to bolster the Seagulls forward pack for the 2018 premiership showdown.
Talty, who has played eight games for Lakes this season but not since scoring a double on July 29, will have his first hit out against Souths this year as he comes back from Jersey Flegg finals duties with the Newcastle Knights under 20s.
The timing couldn’t have been better for Edwards, and with the Knights missing the NSW RL decider this weekend it meant Talty was free to don the blue and gold uniform at McDonald Jones Stadium.
“Ben Talty comes into the 17 and Callum Butler drops back to 18th man,” Edwards told the Newcastle Herald.
“He’s a good kid who has been playing 20s with the Knights. He makes a difference for us in that forward pack and will rip in.”
Lakes captain Shaun Boss has been named at lock, but shifted into the middle of the park in Sunday’s preliminary final win over Kurri as the minor premiers also dealt with the loss of back-rower Jarrod Holmgreen to a season-ending knee injury a week earlier.
“I’ve played lock most of the year, but being back in the front-row my game doesn’t really change very much,” Boss said.
“I still do my hit ups, make my tackles and do my job.”
The other tactical decision facing Edwards in terms of positions will be Lakes hooker Daniel Peck, who was 12 months ago named the Wests Tigers under-20 player of the year.
Peck started for the Seagulls last weekend, but was used off the bench seven days earlier. He was dangerous on each occasion.
“To start him or not to start him?” Edwards said.
“We’re not really sure yet and we’re weighing it all up now. He’s a really good player and can do a job either way.
“We’ll have one last run through tomorrow [Saturday morning] and decide after that.”
Souths coach Ben Cross seems fairly settled with his line-up after naming both centre Tom Cronan and second-rower Daniel Martine to return from injury after missing their major semi-final win over Lakes a fortnight ago.
“We didn’t lose too much with them out and it will be pretty seamless when they come back in,” Cross said.
“There’s been really good buy in from everybody this year. There’s been 32 players who have played first grade during the season, so whoever has the jumper on is ready to go.”
Souths trained at the Turton Road venue on Thursday night and only three from the group hadn’t played at Broadmeadow previously, excluding at least a handful involved with the Knights’ NSW Cup squad this year.
Cross, a former NRL grand finalist and NSW Origin representative, said it was important for his young charges to “take advantage of moments when they present themselves. To stay nice and relaxed, and execute with calmness … because it will come down to who can handle the occasion better”.
Winger Jarrad Flanagan, prop Luke Higgins and back-rower Jake Lawrence are the only three players remaining from Souths’ last premiership in 2016.
Centre Josh Charles, winger Matt Craig and hooker Casey Burgess are those left from Lakes’ most recent title in 2015.
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