‘I had no choice but to drop Ravalawa’, says Flanagan

Scott Bailey |

Dragons coach Shane Flanagan says he had no choice but to drop out-of-form Mikaele Ravalawa (pic).
Dragons coach Shane Flanagan says he had no choice but to drop out-of-form Mikaele Ravalawa (pic).

St George Illawarra coach Shane Flanagan says he had no choice but to drop an out-of-form Mikaele Ravalawa from an already-decimated Dragons backline.

Flanagan will run out three new faces in his outside backs against Penrith on Saturday night, with Zac Lomax in NSW camp and Jack Bird both injured.

That prompted the Dragons coach to recall the Feagai twins Max and Mathew on the right edge, against a Panthers side missing five players to State of Origin.

But the backline shortage could not save Ravalawa.

After the Dragons let in numerous tries down the left edge last week against Canterbury, Flanagan said he had seen enough to drop the Fijian winger.

“He’s been troubled with a knee and a foot injury over the last couple of months and I don’t think we’ve seen the best of Mika,” Flanagan said. 

“The group has been told numerous times that I’ll give the senior players a bit of leeway, but I’ve got to put the best team out there. 

“This is the best team available for us this weekend.”

Asked if Ravalawa could have been moved back to the right where he has played previously, Flanagan said that’s not the issue.

“It’s not the side that Mika is playing on. It’s lack of form at the moment,” Flanagan said. 

“So we can’t toss up that he’s on the wrong side.”

Flanagan also has a new face in his halves with 26-year-old Jesse Marschke to fulfil a dream of wearing No.7 for an NRL club.

A playmaker since his junior days, Marschke spent the majority of his career in the Sydney Roosters’ system before moving to the Dragons this year.

Initially picked as a back-up half after Ronald Volkman’s pre-season injury, Marschke is now set to play a crucial role for the Dragons filling in for Ben Hunt.

But with Kyle Flanagan beside him in the halves, Shane Flanagan said the job had to be simple for Marschke.

“He’s been really good in reserve grade and gets his chance in first grade to wear the No.7, so his role won’t be complicated,” Flanagan said. 

“It will be really simple. He’s got to kick well. 

“Kyle has been there for a long period of time and will take most of the responsibility around team structures. Jesse’s got to do his job.

“He will slot in there perfect. Our systems in first grade and second grade are exactly the same so he’ll be okay.”

Penrith will play Jack Cole and Brad Schneider in the halves with Nathan Cleary injured and Jarome Luai on Origin duty.