Wayne Bennett in huge call on Trai Fuller amid worrying Tom Flegler development for Maroons

The incumbent QLD prop is racing the clock to be fit for the Origin opener.

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett has heaped praised on rookie fullback Trai Fuller after another impressive display in Sunday's nail biting 18-14 loss to the Knights at Suncorp Stadium. But the master coach has ruled out incumbent Maroons prop Tom Flegler and gun centre Herbie Farnworth out of his side's NRL round nine clash against the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday night.

Fuller continued to fill in for regular Dolphins No.1 Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and looked dangerous just about every time he touched the ball against the Knights. The livewire fullback was playing in just his third game in the NRL, having starred in round seven's thumping of the Eels in Darwin, and was singled out by Bennett post-match for his tireless efforts to drag the fast-finishing Dolphins back into the contest after a sluggish start against Newcastle.

Tom Flegler's NRL injury concerns for the Dolphins come as Trai Fuller has impressed at fullback. Pic: Getty
Tom Flegler's NRL injury concerns for the Dolphins come as Trai Fuller has impressed at fullback. Pic: Getty

“He (Trai) was tremendous. There were other guys, they never stopped trying... I admire that quality greatly. They just didn’t have the legs,” Bennett said. Dolphins teammate Mark Nicholls was also full of praise for the 27-year-old fullback after the match.

“He’s a livewire... we’ve had to try to tackle him at training at 18 months, so I know what it’s like... I wouldn’t want to be on the opposition when you’re tired trying to tackle him,” Nicholls said. “He’s played well and he definitely created some stuff for us today when we needed it. We got close, but unfortunately we just couldn’t get the two points.

“Trai’s 27, he’s got QCup Player of the Year a couple of times. He’s stuck at it. I remember in off-season I spoke to him about whether he (would) look to get an opportunity somewhere else... obviously Hamiso’s here – a representative player, Queensland and Australia – it’s going to be hard for him to get a run over him.

“But he loves Redcliffe, and he didn’t want to leave. He was happy to stay here and take his opportunities when he can get them. I sort of didn’t really crack first grade until my late 20s. Well done to Trai for sticking with it.”

The Dolphins' injury crisis worsened in Sunday's defeat, with both Bromwich brothers - Jesse (calf) and Kenny (concussion) - facing the prospect of being ruled out of the Cowboys clash. Jesse finished the Knights game with ice on his right calf while Kenny failed an HIA in the first half after sustaining a category two concussion. He faces a mandatory 11-day stand down unless the Dolphins successfully appeal to the NRL.


"It is a bit sore and tender but I will get scans. I haven't had a calf tear before," Jesse Bromwich said after the match. "It doesn't feel like a tear. It is either a bad cork or a little strain. If not (I will play) next week or the week after. I'm hoping I will be fine next week but (injuries) seem to be the story of our season. We've had a few guys get injured and guys come in and do a great job."

Queensland rep players Flegler (shoulder) and Tabuai-Fidow (hamstring) won't be available for Saturday night's trip to North Queensland. Neither will England international centre Herbie Farnworth (AC joint). However, veteran second-rower Felise Kaufusi (hamstring) has a chance of returning. “It’s a hamstring, so it will be close,” Bennett said about Kaufusi's chances of playing.

Pictured left to right are injured Dolphins players Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Flegler.
The injury-ravaged Dolphins have been without a number of rep stars including Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Tom Flegler. Pic: Getty

Flegler appears to be the biggest concern for Bennett's Dolphins, as well as Queensland coach Billy Slater, with the prop's return date up in the air. Physio and injury analyst Brien Seeney, who operates the well respected NRL Physio social media account, suggested that Bennett's recent updates about his prop suggests Flegler is still at least 3-4 weeks away from making an NRL return.

"The time frame is when Tom can feel his shoulder again and the nerves are operating properly," Bennett said. "It is nerve damage and has got to be repaired." Slater's Maroons have already lost props Tino Fa'asuamaleaui and Thomas Gilbert to season-ending injuries and Flegler's predicament means he'll be battling to prove his fitness ahead of the State of Origin series opener in Sydney on June 5.