JACK LYONS BELATED RETURN FOR ROOS
By Les Muir
KANGAROOS captain-coach Ben Jeffery is not banking on the return of speedster Jack Lyons saving the Wagga team from missing the Group Nine finals.
After three months out with a badly broken hand, Lyons will make a belated comeback for Kangaroos against his former club Southcity at McDonald’s Park on Saturday.
In a twist of fate, the 21-year-old try-scoring whiz sustained the injury in the corresponding first round game won by Southcity 40-12 on April 1.
Lyons moved to Kangaroos this year after three dazzling seasons with the Bulls in which he scored 56 tries and made the Country representative team.
Despite the injection of Lyons pace and potency for the last six games of the season, Jeffery has virtually conceded the chances of Kangaroos making the finals starting in August.
“You never say never, but it’s going to be very tough,” Jeffery said.
“We’d have to start by winning out next two years and that will be massive task.”
Kangaroos are currently sixth on the table with 10 points, but only points-differential ahead of Junee (10) and Temora (10).
Under the 2017 draw, which will be changed next year, Roos are among the luckless six teams that must play Southcity and Gundagai twice this season.
Roos followed up their first round failure against Southcity by going down 30-12 to Gundagai a week later on April 8.
With a maximum of 14 points available from the remaining six games and a bye, Roos couldn’t afford even one slip up or they would be utterly doomed.
“We’ll need some luck to propel us into the finals,” Jeffery said.
“Everything would have to fall into place.”
For Jeffery, the quest for the final five foundered on “near misses” and a catastrophic 28-26 loss to Cootamundra on June 4.
“We’ve just put pressure on ourselves,” he said.
Significantly, the loss of Lyons for more than half the season was a telling blow to Kangaroos.
The flyer was signed to give Roos more strike power, but he never got the opportunity.
Jeffery intends to ease Lyons back into action from the interchange bench on Saturday, sticking with reliable Kade MacDonald as the starting centre.
Coincidentally, Lyons scored four tries when Southcity ravaged Kangaroos 80-8 late last year.
Fresh from a dramatic 26-all draw with Young last Sunday, Southcity will be strengthened by the inclusion of powerful centre Usaia O’Sullivan and gun prop Hayden Jeans, who were both missing on the weekend.
Kangaroos and Southcity will celebrate an Indigenous Day on Saturday, with the teams playing in indigenous-themed jumpers.
As part of the occasion, there will information stands, Welcome To Country, Wiradjuri dancers and didgeridoo playing at the ground.