St George Illawarra's NRL pre-season plans have suffered a double blow after young gun Talatau Amone was stood down by the NRL and his likely replacement Jayden Sullivan suffered a hamstring injury. Amone's case was back before Wollongong Court on Wednesday, after he was charged in December in relation to an alleged attack on a roofing contractor.
The NRL subsequently announced the 20-year-old five-eighth would be stood down under the game's no-fault stand-down policy, as he fights a charge of causing reckless grievous bodily harm in company. Amone faces a maximum 14 years in jail if found guilty of the offence, above the NRL's threshold of 11 years for the stand-down policy to be automatically enacted.
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"The NRL has advised the St George Illawarra Dragons that Talatau Junior Amone is subject to the mandatory no-fault stand-down condition under the NRL rules," the league said in a statement. "Under the condition, the player is not permitted to participate as a player in the NRL competition or any related, representative or other competition or pre-season trial match."
Amone had been training with the Dragons since returning from the Rugby League World Cup, where he represented Pacific Island side Tonga. It remains to be seen whether Amone continues to train with Anthony Griffin's side, as the club gathers further information on how long the court proceedings are likely to last.
Sullivan was tipped to be the man most likely to step up and replace Amone in the No.6 jersey at the Dragons, until he was struck down in a fresh injury blow. Sullivan has a history of hamstring injuries, with the problem again resurfacing to leave the Saints scrambling to solve their dilemma in the halves.
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His latest hamstring complaint is set to rule Sullivan out for between four and six weeks, ruling him out of the pre-season clash with English club St Helens. He will also be battling to recover in time for the start of the season, which gets underway on March 2.
The Dragons remain optimistic that Sullivan's recovery won't be as long as six weeks, with the playmaker considered an outside chance to play in the Charity Shield clash against South Sydney on February 18. The Dragons begin their season one week later than the other 16 teams after being handed the bye in Round One.
St George Illawarra begin their season with a Round Two home game against the Gold Coast Titans on March 12. While the news about Amone and the injury to Sullivan is a cruel double whammy for the club, the fact they have an extra week of pre-season to prepare is a small consolation.
However, time in the pre-season trial games alongside halfback Ben Hunt would have been crucial for Sullivan, with the pair having not partnered each other in the NRL since two games in late 2021. If Sullivan is not fit, Dragons coach Griffin would likely have to hand the No.6 jersey to versatile Moses Mbye to start the year.
Sullivan's injury leaves the Dragons with a second spot in their spine in question before kickoff. Fullback Cody Ramsey is sidelined by serious illness, with no certainty on his return date. Tyrell Sloan is the likely back up No.1, after he started last year there before being dropped midway through the season.
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