The Wests Tigers are desperately hoping Benji Marshall has been able to shake off a knee injury and will be fit for today's NRL do-or-die semi-final against the Canberra Raiders. The playmaker took part in the team's final training session, but it is how his knee has responded which will determine whether he takes his place in the line-up.
Tim Sheens, the Tigers coach, said he will give his key man until the last minute to prove he is fit but added that if Marshall showed any signs of stiffness, it would be hard to pick him. "We'll see how he goes after training," Sheens said yesterday. "I'm keeping an open mind at the moment. "Every senior coach gives every player, let alone a key player, as much time as possible." Terry Campese, the Raiders co-captain, said they were preparing for Marshall to play.
"[Marshall] has got the wood on me twice this year so I've got one game to get it back and this is the game that counts," he said. "They're probably the best attacking side in the competition so if we are down on attitude or we don't bring our best game they'll just score five tries in a matter of 10 minutes. We've got to turn up with our heads on and make sure we are at our best defensively." The Raiders have no injury worries, with co-captain Alan Tongue returning from a calf injury.
In England, Michael Dobson, the former Canberra half-back, believes Hull Kingston Rovers are riding the crest of a wave as they bid for a second Super League play-off shock on the trot at the Wigan Warriors tonight. Rovers stunned city rivals Hull FC with a 21-4 win last weekend to continue their push for a first ever Grand Final appearance. Dobson, named in the Super League dream team for a second successive season last week, was outstanding in the KC Stadium victory and is desperate to pile more misery on Wigan, his former club, after their 27-26 loss to the Leeds Rhinos.
Dobson made a huge impression during 14 appearances on-loan for Wigan but has vowed to do all he can to move his current club to within 80 minutes of the final. "The beauty of the play-offs means you get one big game after another and there's a real belief building in the squad," Dobson said. "To go to our big rivals and knock them out has given us all a huge boost and there's no reason why we can't go to Wigan and do the same to them."
He added: "We set out at the start of the season to get to the Grand Final and I believe we can do that." Meanwhile, Gareth Raynor, the former Great Britain winger, will resume his rugby career with the Bradford Bulls when he is released from prison later this year. The 32-year-old made only nine Super League appearances for the Celtic Crusaders this season before they terminated his contract when he was sentenced to nine months in jail in May after admitting a counterfeiting scam and another six months for breaching a suspended sentence for racially aggravated assault in 2008.
Raynor, who is due to be released on licence on December 31 but could be out on a temporary licence as early as October 4 for pre-season training, said: "I'm very grateful to Bradford Bulls for the opportunity to get back playing Super League." * Agencies