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Widdop return a boost for Storm

Gareth Widdop's return from a dislocated hip couldn't have come at a better time with the England international poised to step back into Melbourne five-eighth jersey for their NRL finals campaign.
Widdop return a boost for Storm
by AAP

By Melissa Woods

MELBOURNE, Sept 8 AAP - Gareth Widdop's return from a dislocated hip couldn't have come at a better time with the England international poised to step back into Melbourne five-eighth jersey for their NRL finals campaign.

Widdop made a comeback through the Storm's Queensland Cup feeder side Brisbane Easts on Sunday, helping steer the Tigers to a 31-18 win over Mackay in their semi-final.

The 24-year-old hasn't played for the NRL reigning premiers since late June when he suffered the shocking injury, which was expected to end his season.

Since then Brett Finch has worn the No.6 jersey but the veteran is rated only a 50:50 chance of being fit to play in the Storm's qualifying final against South Sydney on Friday night.

Finch damaged his sternoclavicular joint late in the first half of their golden point 23-22 win over Gold Coast at AAMI Park on Saturday night and will have scans on Monday to determine if there is a fracture.

Widdop played 50 minutes for Easts and came through unscathed, giving hope that he could be ready to partner Cooper Cronk in the halves against the Rabbitohs.

"He (Widdop) was solid if a little bit rusty which is understandable given his time out," said Storm football manager Frank Ponissi.

"Overall it was a very pleasing afternoon."

Melbourne's medical staff will assess how Widdop recovers over the next 48 hours before making a decision on his availability for Friday's opening NRL finals match.

The Storm had been preparing to face minor premiers the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night before Penrith's upset victory over Manly on Sunday relegated the Sea Eagles to fourth and pitched the Storm up to third.

If Finch's joint is fractured, it will likely end his season and his career, given his retirement plans.

"We'll know more after the scan but it's not great playing a day earlier (on Friday) and him losing a day," Ponissi said.

Maurice Blair is likely to start at five-eighth if both Widdop and Finch fail to come up.

While Storm coach Craig Bellamy described his team's effort against the Titans as a "mixed bag", captain Cameron Smith saw some good signs ahead of the finals.

"I was particularly pleased with our defence, with our aggression more than anything," said Smith.

"We got dominated last week by Manly both with the ball and without it but I thought we did a good job turning them back to their own try line and making some metres.

"But we're still taking pressure off the opposition by giving them cheap metres through penalties...we definitely need to be playing better next week."


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