McGregor’s massive call to fix Dragons dramas
PAUL McGregor has a massive call to make as to whether young gun Zac Lomax needs to be rushed into the starting team to fix St George Illawarra's goal kicking dramas.
With the Dragons taking on the premiers Sydney Roosters in Thursday's Anzac Day blockbuster at the SCG, McGregor will no doubt be reluctant to make any changes following Saturday night's gutsy 12-10 win over Manly.
The heart-stopping victory in Wollongong made it four in a row for the Dragons but the margin could have been a lot more comfortable had Tim Lafai not missed three shots at goal that would be considered well within range for most serious NRL kickers.
It would be a huge call to hold Lafai responsible given he was forced to take over the kicking duties in the wake of Gareth Widdop's season-ending shoulder injury.
But Lafai's strike rate is a significant issue that just can't be ignored.
Fox Sports Stats show that Lafai has a 63.1 per cent NRL record having landed 24 of 38 attempts, while Lomax is a known sharp shooter with a 86.6 per cent strike rate coming from 13 goals from 15 attempts.
The other options for McGregor would be to hand the job to either Ben Hunt or Corey Norman.
Hunt has a career record of 63.4 per cent, having landed 25 of 37 attempts, while Norman's 38.4 per cent success rate is hardly encouraging given he has only five goals from 13 attempts.
Lafai and Euan Aitken are both playing good footy but ultimately the team's goal kicking has to be addressed.
Lomax came into the team last year after a late season injury to Aitken when Widdop was also sidelined and he was outstanding.
The 19-year-old is rated one of the most exceptional talents coming through in the game and it's unlikely he would be overawed in a game as big as the Anzac Day clash given he comfortably handled the job of marking up on Greg Inglis during last year's final series.
McGregor doesn't have to name his team until Tuesday but the Dragons' five-day turnaround has left him with little time to contemplate the decision.
While centre is Lomax's preferred position he has also played on the wing, although both Jordan Pereira and Mikaele Ravalawa would be equally hard to shift.
Pereira's energy and power on kick returns in particular have been outstanding while Ravalawa is also a powerful runner and came up with the winning try against Manly.
McGregor was justifiably proud of his team's effort and praised their patience.
While conceding Lafai's goal kicking wasn't "great", the coach gave no indication change would occur, although you'd think privately it would be the one thing weighing most heavily on him.
"Laf has been good the last couple of weeks," McGregor said after the game.
"He was just a little bit off and missed a couple of goals that would have put us in a better position.
"But that's footy."