Jamal Idris makes return to NRL with Wests Tigers in trial loss to St George Illawarra
FEBRUARY 12, 201712:21PM
The Sunday Telegraph
IT’S taken 672 days and a trip around the world to discover himself, but Jamal Idris is finally back playing rugby league.
Buoyed by his trademark brute strength, Idris made a successful return to the NRL with the Wests Tigers at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Saturday night.
Idris hasn’t played since early 2015, but it didn’t stop him from producing glimpses of his barnstorming best.
He came off the bench in the second half and looked comfortable playing in the centres.
Idris made a strong charge with his first touch, carrying multiple Dragons’ defenders as he surged up the field.
The former Test and Origin star received limited chances for the remainder of the match, but he was a handful to contain every time he touched the ball.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Idris’ return wasn’t enough as Jason Taylor’s men suffered a 20-10 trial loss to St George Illawarra.
The Tigers looked competitive without stars James Tedesco, Luke Brooks, Mitch Moses and skipper Aaron Woods, but they were ultimately outclassed by the Dragons.
Young five-eighth Jack Littlejohn impressed in his limited chances, laying on a perfectly-timed kick in the first half for fullback David Nofoaluma to score.
Veteran prop Tim Grant stood out up front, while hooker Matt McIIwrick looked dangerous around the ruck and will provide the Tigers with invaluable depth this season.
In the end, though, it was St George Illawarra who recorded a hard fought victory.
The Dragons may have won, but the race to replace injured halfback Drew Hutchison remains unclear.
Emerging half Jai Field followed up his eye-catching performance at the Auckland Nines with a mixed display in his maiden taste of 13-aside football.
Field dropped his first touch, before settling his nerves to score a classy try on the stroke of halftime.
Experienced playmaker Josh McCrone also failed to take control in his 40 minutes on the field.
Both McCrone and Field have the potential to partner Gareth Widdop in the halves this season, but must improve their execution and involvement.
It leaves coach Paul McGregor with a headache heading into next Sunday’s traditional Charity Shield clash against arch-rivals South Sydney.
On a plus side, St George Illawarra showed impressive fighting qualities against the Tigers without stars Josh Dugan, Tyson Frizell, Jason Nightingale and Joel Thompson.
The Dragons trailed 10-0 at quarter-time, before surging back into the contest to score four unanswered tries.
Lock Jack de Belin was sinned binned for striking Tigers forward Elijah Taylor two minutes into the second quarter.
The Tigers will look to respond when they take on North Queensland at Campbelltown Stadium on Friday night.