Aidan Guerra, returning from an infected knee, scored two tries for the Newtown Jets in their 32-24 loss to the Cronulla Sharks in the NSW Cup.
So unless first grade coach Trent Robinson plans on recalling Luke O’Donnell from his one-game suspension — which would undermine everything they are trying to achieve — then all six feet, seven inches and 21 years of Kane Evans will make his much-anticipated debut against the Parramatta Eels on Monday.
It was always a risk playing Guerra after two games out and following two straight wins, and with O’Donnell suspended coach Trent Robinson has undoubtedly decided that they needed to replace his go-forward off the bench.
For Evans, there isn’t a better game in the league in which to make your debut — not for the prestige of lining up against last year’s wooden spooners (don’t be so silly), but purely for the forwards he’ll line up against.
The Parramatta Eels run out one of the smaller forward packs in the league: Mitchell Allgood, Matt Keating, Tim Mannah, Reni Maitua (C), Ben Smith and Joseph Paulo with Fui Fui Moi Moi, Darcy Lussick and fellow neophyte Kelepi Tanginoa off the bench. All of them are solid players but don’t provide the go-forward (with the exception of Mannah and Moi Moi) that any other club has.
Roosters fans have been calling for the massive young prop to make his debut, and Petero Civoniceva recently named him one of the best five rookie props going around — even going so far to say he could play for NSW and Australia at some stage.
Luke O’Donnell has been used primarily up the middle in his two games so far this season and in his first game in the NRL in two years made 12 runs for 124 metres against the New Zealand Warriors running on the right side of the ruck.
Robinson will hope the burly bopper can replicate those feats.
(Interesting side note: as soon as Evans steps onto the field he will become the equal tallest player in the NRL with Dane Tilse.)
His first grade career may be short-lived (at least this year) following this game. While many expect he will be a regular first grader in years to come, it is highly unlikely that Robinson will send prized recruit O’Donnell to play with Newtown.
However, Roosters fans are expecting big things from Evans this year, and he gets to show the world what he’s capable of for at least one game.
And who knows — what if he dominates in his first game of NRL? It could be very hard to keep him out of the squad with Marty Kennedy and Frank-Paul Nu’uasala performing below their best so far this season.