TALIMALIE'S REPLACEMENT UNCERTAIN: WOOLFORD
By Les Muir
YOUNG captain-coach James Woolford is keeping his options open to settle on the best possible replacement for star halfback Ray Talimalie.
With Talimalie suspended for four weeks for abusive conduct, Woolford needs to find a new halfback for the critical Group Nine game against Temora at Nixon Park on Sunday.
Heading into the final four rounds before the finals, the pressure is on Young and Temora to maintain their respective positions on the ladder.
Young must beat the Temora to retain second spot behind Southcity, while seventh-placed Temora needs to succeed to stay in the queue for a possible shot at the finals.
Woolford is definitely not backing away from the importance of Sunday’s clash – or Young’s other upcoming games against Brothers, Albury and Tumut.
“It comes down to the last four games,” Woolford said.
“There’s a lot to play for.”
Fresh from the bye, Young will be missing Talimalie for each game before the finals.
Young seems perfectly safe with 23 points on the table, but a succession of late-season defeats could have a disastrous impact on their standing.
For this reason alone, Woolford is not rushing in to declare the stand-in for Talimalie for Sunday.
Taking stock of the situation, Woolford revealed there are several players under consideration, not the least himself.
“Matt Murray is the most logical (replacement), but there are other ways we could go,” Woolford said.
“We go with one half and push one of the forwards out.
“I could even go there myself.”
Woolford has the creativity to play in the halves along Jesse Corcoran, while 20-year-old Murray is a natural halfback and in golden form.
“He’s (Murray) leading the Weissel Medal in reserve grade,” Woolford said.
Murray is a speedster and has scored six tries and kicked 26 goals in reserve grade this year.
Significantly, Talimalie is Young’s goal-kicker and Murray could take over those duties as well.
Woolford admits a final decision may not be made until later in the week.
“We’ll have a look at training tonight (Tuesday),” he said.
“We’ll just have to see.”
Aside from Talimalie’s omission, Young only has two injury doubts – Nayah Freeman and Jack Bush – to weigh up.
Freeman and Bush have missed Young’s recent games, but the rest of the squad is “fit and well” after the weekend off for the premiership bye.
Leading referee Scott Muir has been appointed to control the Temora v Young blockbuster, and Woolford be counting on his team to be well disciplined.
The Cherrypickers were on the end of a 2-9 penalty count from referee Mick Kirkman in their 28-12 victory over Junee two weeks ago.