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IT'S MY VIEW: Survival of the fittest
Does Smith risk the return of Richie Myler or stick with the side that was so successful against Leeds?
TONY Smith has had to make some tough selection decisions for big games over the years and he has more for the semi final with Huddersfield Giants tonight, Thursday.
Among the most memorable, Paul Rauhihi was left out of the 2009 Challenge Cup Final team, Richie Myler missed out at Wembley a year later and last year’s Grand Final line-up did not include Garreth Carvell or the in-form Tyrone McCarthy.
If Australian back rower Trent Waterhouse is considered fully recovered from knee ligament damage, does Smith stick with the men who did a convincing job against Leeds Rhinos 12 days ago?
Or does he shuffle now that he has influential full back Brett Hodgson and England scrum half Myler available again?
Bringing back Hodgson would mean finding a new spot for players’ player of the year Stefan Ratchford.
Moving the ex-Salford utility man to half back though would mean sorting out a different place for another of the season’s star performers, Simon Grix, as well as shutting down an option of starting Myler with Lee Briers.
It is good to have the variables and to keep everyone guessing, including Huddersfield coach Paul Anderson.
In my view, a coach should select his fittest players and seek stability at this time of the year.
Most players nurse various degrees of injuries late on in a season, but I felt Wolves paid the price for carrying too many men with serious problems at this same stage against Leeds Rhinos two years ago.
Watching the game back with the benefit of that knowledge, all three made uncharacteristic crucial mistakes in a fierce and tight contest only settled by Kevin Sinfield’s last-minute penalty goal.
I would hope the lesson has been learned.
If Waterhouse is not fully recovered – or if indeed there are other players with ‘doubts’ – they should be left out of what will be a gladiatorial battle of attrition and nerve. Anyone who is not right will be found out.
Grix is a more than capable replacement for Waterhouse and his move back into the pack would provide an opportunity for the return of Hodgson or Myler.
However, if there is no issue for Waterhouse, I’d be tempted to field the same 17 as against Leeds.
Admittedly, Grix was only at scrum half on that occasion because Myler was not ready to make his comeback and Ratchford was needed to cover for Hodgson, but the utility Yorkshireman did a sterling job.
I do accept that Huddersfield talisman Danny Brough and Luke Robinson are a more nimble half-back pairing than Leeds’ Kevin Sinfield and Danny McGuire, which could mean a different thought process for Wolves.
But for such a big occasion, bringing back the doubtlessly talented Myler when he has been sidelined for almost three months would be a risk in my book.
Only the player, Smith and his backroom team can possibly know if he can reach match pace immediately. That judgement has to be respected and I would obviously be delighted if Myler plays and Wolves win.
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