You have skipped the navigation, tab for page content
Dragons halfback Adam Clune.

Halfback Adam Clune will be right to make his NRL debut for the Dragons on Monday despite a nasty knock at training on the day he was announced as the team's new No.7.

Clune suffered a broken nose in the training incident on Tuesday but St George Illawarra officials are confident he will be right to take his place in the reshuffled line-up for the crucial clash against fellow winless team, Canterbury.

"He did cop a bit of a whack on the nose and will have a bit of follow up over the next few days," a Dragons spokesman said. "He's a tough kid though, and still very much looking forward to his debut."

Corey Norman has been shifted to fullback as the Dragons seek some attacking spark heading into Monday's game.

Clune, the NSW Cup halfback of the year, joins veteran forwards Trent Merrin and Issac Luke as new faces in a Dragons line-up hoping to shift the spotlight off coach Paul McGregor and a number of underperforming stars.

Star playmaker Ben Hunt will switch to five-eighth to accommodate the inclusion of Clune, who turns 25 on Monday, and Norman's move to fullback means there was no room for Matt Dufty.

Annesley aims to stay ahead of coaches

McGregor's decision to give Clune an opportunity meant he had to split his halves but moving Hunt to hooker was never considered as Cameron McInnes is regarded as one of the best No.9s in the NRL and Luke is also in the squad.

McInnes made 74 tackles in last Saturday's 18-0 defeat by the Warriors so exposing Hunt to that sort of defensive workload would do little for St George Illawarra's attack.

McGregor will be able to inject a fresh Luke into dummy half against the Bulldogs and either shift McInnes to lock or give him a rest on the interchange.

Norman is considered one of St George Illawarra's top players and has started 38 of his 191 NRL matches at fullback, where he will replace Dufty.

Prop Korbin Sims and interchange second-rower Tyrell Fuimaono have also dropped out of the 17.

The match will be Clune's first of the season as the NSWRL Canterbury Cup has been suspended but he has impressed at training since joining the fulltime squad at the end of last season.

The Albion Park-Oak Flats product, who began playing at Laurie Daley's junior club Junee Diesels, is held in high regard at St George Illawarra after spearheading the Dragons to the 2019 NSWRL minor premiership.

Round 4 - Taumalolo out, Ponga and Foran return

In his 22 Canterbury Cup appearances last year, Clune was ranked first in the competition for try-assists (28) and line-break assists (27), while also producing seven forced line-dropouts and 2535 kick-metres.

After completing a law and finance degree at University of Wollongong last July, Clune works part-time for the RLPA and he spent time during the off-season volunteering in Kenya.

Clune has been 18th man for St George Illawarra in all three NRL matches this season and after a disjointed Dragons performance in Gosford last Saturday McGregor felt it was time to promote him to the playing squad.

Dragons utility back Corey Norman.
Dragons utility back Corey Norman. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

Josh Kerr has been rewarded for his good form this season with a starting front-row berth in place of Sims, while Merrin brings experience to the bench.

The Dragons' winless start to the season has sparked intense speculation around McGregor's future but at this stage the pressure appears to be external and not coming from within the club.

However, if the team fails to beat Canterbury or Cronulla on June 14, McGregor's position is almost certain to be discussed at the next meeting of the St George Illawarra board on June 16.

Five key match-ups of the Dragons' revised 2020 draw

As McGregor pointed out after last Sunday's 18-0 loss to the Warriors, he is just three games into a new two-year contract, while the Dragons were in a position to win both matches before the competition was suspended against Wests Tigers and Penrith.

McGregor will be hoping the changes improve the team's attack after St George Illawarra failed to score a try last weekend for the first time since their 16-2 loss to the Bulldogs in 2017.

The following season was the club's best since winning the 2010 grand final, with the Dragons leading the competition until round 16 and only slipping out of the top four two weeks before the play-offs after captain Gareth Widdop dislocated his shoulder.

After beating Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in the opening round of the finals, McGregor's men bowed out with a brave 13-12 loss to South Sydney after Tariq Sims was injured and Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds kicked an NRL record three field goals.

With NSW Origin lock Jack de Belin stood down under the NRL’s no-fault stand down policy before the 2019 season started and Widdop again dislocating his shoulder in round three, the Dragons slumped to 15th and have now won just two of their last 13 matches.

St George Illawarra half Ben Hunt.
St George Illawarra half Ben Hunt. ©Shane Myers/NRL Photos

While the poor results have also attracted scrutiny of the St George Illawarra roster, there are unlikely to be mass changes as Newcastle-bound Tyson Frizell and de Belin are the biggest earning players off contract at the end of the season.

Luke and veteran England prop James Graham are no longer on big-money deals, while the others players off contract are Kerr, Lafai, fellow centre Euan Aitken, Ravalawa, Jacob Host, Billy Brittain, Tristan Sailor and Joe Lovodua.