Grey ready for crack at Cats
By Keiran Roberts
March 8, 2000
After being rated most unlikely to play Nathan Grey will risk a 'stable fracture' and make his first appearance of the season for the New South Wales Waratahs against the unbeaten Cats at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday.
It was only a couple of days ago that team officials had all but crossed out a return with X-rays still revealing a break in Grey's right thumb.
The crash-tackling centre had a pin inserted in his right thumb after cracking it while making a tackle on Canterbury Crusaders' All Black scrum half Justin Marshall in a pre-season Southern Cross match last month.
But at training in incessant rain Wednesday, the 24-year-old World Cup Wallaby came through a session of tackling and ballwork drills to enable coach Ian Kennedy to name him alongside senior Wallaby and team captain Jason Little in the Waratahs' midfield.
Grey said he now had a "stable fracture" and only felt pain when he took a direct blow on the thumb, so he is taking a risk playing against South Africa's Golden Cats.
Grey's inclusion at the expense of Christian Warner was the only change to the NSW team which outclassed the Northern Bulls in 33-13 in Pretoria last Saturday.
"It's a been a bit frustrating, but we're really looking forward to hopefully forming some good combinations," Grey said Wednesday of his union with Little.
While Little joined NSW before last season, Saturday's match will be the first time Grey and Little have combined as a centre pairing in a home Super 12 match.
Their only previous tournament appearance together in the midfield was on Little's Super 12 debut for NSW in the season opener against the Sharks in Durban last year when Little snapped a collar bone.
Grey, who made his own move from Queensland to NSW a few years ahead of Little, was a member of Australia's triumphant World Cup squad along with his Waratahs centre partner.
"Nathan is a fantastic player and I think we clearly missed him in that first Super 12 game against the Stormers," Little said. NSW lost by by seven points.
Grey has played 18 internationals for Australia since his debut against Scotland two years ago.
The 1996 Australian under-21 captain left Queensland after the 1997 domestic season where internationals Tim Horan, Daniel Herbert and Jason Little had restricted him to just two appearances.
With the Waratahs, the rugged Grey is a first choice centre which opened up the way to the national team. Now Little has joined him in the NSW team.
The Cats have also made a change at inside centre, with South African sevens representative and television presenter Mac Masina handed his first Super 12 start in place of injured Springbok back Japie Mulder.
The Cats' former All Black coach Laurie Mains made a voluntary change at flyhalf where he opted to rest Springbok Hennie Le Roux and replaced him with Louis Koen.
Mains said he had decided to give Le Roux a spell because he took "a bit of a hammering in the first two games."
Masina's selection means that for the first time this season the Cats will comply with the South African Rugby Football Union's request that two black players be included in a squad.
Mains made it clear fitness rather than politics was responsible for his decision.
"It's nothing to do with that, we don't have any other inside centres," Mains said.
He said 25-year-old Masina, who was the player of the series in the 1999 Vodacom Cup, was a strong defensive player and a good ball handler.
NSW - Matt Burke, Scott Staniforth, Jason Little (capt), Nathan Grey, Matt Dowling, Manuel Edmonds, Chris Whitaker, Tiaan Strauss, Phil Waugh, Stuart Pinkerton, John Welborn, Peter Besseling, Rod Moore, Brendan Cannon, Richard Harry. Reserves: Marc Stcherbina, Christian Warner, Sam Payne, David Lyons, Daniel Manu, Cameron Blades, Mark Crick.
The Cats - Kobus Engelbrecht, Chester Williams, Grant Esterhuizen, Mac Masina, Tinus Delport, Louis Koen, Werner Swanepoel, Andre Vos (c), Andre Venter, Piet Krause, Victor Matfield, Jannes Labuschagne, Willie Meyer, Leon Boshoff, Marius Mostert. Reserves: Jannie van der Walt, Hennie Le Roux, Jimmy Powell, Torros Pretorius, Johan Ackermann, Pierre Ribbens, Delarey Du Preez.