Dragons’ teen star set for GI showdown
HE'S the 18-year-old excitement machine from the bush with only two NRL starting games in the bag.
But that won't stop St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor from backing Zac Lomax to go head-to-head with South Sydney superstar Greg Inglis in Saturday's blockbuster elimination semi-final.
McGregor will name his team on Tuesday and the tip is Lomax will get the jump on experienced centre Euan Aitken.
Aitken has missed the Dragons' last two wins because of a hamstring injury but will be given until later in the week to prove he is ready to return.
Adding to McGregor's selection headache, retiring winger Jason Nightingale is also expected to be ready to return from injury.
But even if Aiken is ultimately available, The Daily Telegraph understands the shoulder injury suffered by skipper Gareth Widdop in Sunday's 48-18 smashing of Brisbane just may swing the advantage to Lomax.
As well as his enormous attacking flair, the teenager is also a top-class goalkicker.
And the Dragons will need every point they can get up against the raging Rabbitohs.
Former Dragons' star centre Mark Gasnier said he did not "want to pre-empt" which way McGregor would go.
But Gasnier added if McGregor does go for Lomax he would back the youngster to handle the challenge of marking up on Inglis.
"Put it this way, if it came down to Mary worrying about Zac up against GI I don't think he would (worry)," Gasnier said.
"No doubt about it, Zac would be nervous. But I think he will be up for it.
"Zac prepares well. He is a deep thinker. And talent-wise, he's more than capable."
As talented as Lomax is, ignoring Aitken would come with its own danger.
Earlier this year Aitken was on the verge of a NSW State of Origin call up and the reference point always went back to his round five showdown with Inglis.
Aitken handed the Rabbitohs' skipper one of the most embarrassing moments of Inglis' illustrious career when Aitken scored a brilliant solo try in the 16-12 win back in April.
But the problem for Aitken is Lomax kicks goals.
Hailing from Temora in country NSW, Lomax has played off the bench against South Sydney twice already this year, in the Charity Shield in Mudgee and also in his NRL debut in round 10.
Lomax suffered a setback when he was sidelined for eight weeks with a broken wrist mid-season.
But he got his chance after Aitken went down in the round 25 loss to Canterbury.
Lomax made his starting debut the following week in the win over Newcastle before his breakout performance against the Broncos when he laid on a scintillating late try for Matt Dufty with a wonderful kick on the run and at full speed.
He also looked comfortable defending alongside halfback Ben Hunt.
"It is just the mental aspect after only what will be his fourth game (third start)," Gasnier said.
"He is an incredible talent. I have kept an eye on him coming through the ranks.
"He has always had some big raps on him. He is a Temora Dragons product, and they have a good production line down there.
"Trent Barrett, Brett Firman, I think Ryan Hinchcliffe from memory all have come out of Temora.
"Zac has always been a good build. He is about 6'2, 6'3, he has a good body shape.
"He has great feet, he is quick and strong. But his biggest strength is his foot work and he has incredible ball skills as well."
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