Soward must step up after riding wave of demotion

Dropped: Jamie Soward will start from the bench for the Dragons against the Knights on Saturday night. Photo: John VeageJamie Soward is expected to front at St George Illawarra training on Wednesday morning, ending his short-lived exile from the club. But he does not return as a first-grade player after being dumped to NSW Cup on Tuesday.

Just two years ago Soward was preparing to make his NSW debut. Now he will take the field for the Illawarra Cutters after coach Steve Price named Chase Stanley to partner Nathan Fien in the halves when the Dragons play Newcastle on Saturday night.

The axing came just a day after Soward was granted a leave of absence from the club. He had arrived at the joint-venture club’s Wollongong base to take part in the team’s usual video session on Monday morning but was given time off after Price consulted Soward and senior players in the aftermath of St George Illawarra’s dramatic 16-14 loss to the Bulldogs last Friday night. Price excused Soward from training for a couple of days ”to clear his head”. The squad had Tuesday off.

St George Illawarra skipper Ben Creagh insisted Soward had the full support of the squad’s senior players despite the premiership-winning five-eighth being dumped to reserve grade for the second time in the space of 12 months.

Speaking only hours before the Dragons confirmed Soward was again NSW Cup-bound, Creagh said: ”He does – 100 per cent. Pricey has given him a couple of days off to clear his head. I’m sure he’ll be at training [on Wednesday] and we’ll get on with it.”

Soward, who will turn out for the Cutters in an NRL curtain raiser against Newcastle on Saturday, has already inked a four-year deal with Penrith from 2014.

His manager Sam Ayoub said Soward had not asked for a mid-season release and would play out the year in Wollongong. Price resisted naming young halfback Josh Drinkwater in first grade or shifting Josh Dugan from fullback. Drinkwater and Soward will pair up in the halves for the Cutters.

Stanley will play five-eighth for the first time in the top grade, with Nathan Green promoted to the centres. Price stressed the entire squad needed to take responsibility for the Dragons’ run of outs.

”We’re all accountable – myself included, and every player that takes the football field,” Price said. ”We’ve got roles to play and it’s important that each individual plays those roles.”

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