NRL 2020: St George Illawarra Dragons willing to loan prop Eddie Blacker to the NZ Warriors

St George Illawarra Dragons coach Paul McGregror says he's willing to loan young prop Eddie Blacker to the NZ Warriors to help with their injury crisis. 

A week out from the Warriors' first match in the revamped NRL season - against the Dragons - they have 26  fit players to choose from, although several of them are young development players. 

The Warriors headed into the season without props Jackson Frei and Bunty Afoa (knee injuries), but since returning to Australia fellow middle-men Leeson Ah Mau (pectoral) and Jazz Tevaga (knee) are also out indefinitely. Backs Taana Milne and Adam Keighran are also injured.

Former Canberra Raiders forward Jack Murchie has already linked with the Warriors, but they're still short on players.

The club had previously put in a request to loan players, which was rejected by the NRL. However, Australian Rugby League Commission  chairman Peter V'landys said that will be reviewed. 

While there have been no official talks between the Warriors and Dragons, McGregor said if all parties benefited from the loan, he'd see no problem with it.

"It hasn't come across my desk at the moment, but I've heard some whispers about one of our players potentially joining the Warriors," explained McGregor. 

"The player is Eddie Blacker, just a young kid. And that's only been speculation. 

"Eddie hasn't heard anything and I haven't heard anything. But it's got to be in the best interest for our club, our team and the player.

"If all those three are aligned in that order I see no reason why it wouldn't be a good thing if the player's going to get some field time and some development." 

Blacker hasn't played any NRL matches, but is in his second season in the Dragons' ranks. 

The Cronulla Sharks haven't been so inviting, as they've reportedly knocked back requests from the Warriors to release prop Toby Rudolf.

Rudolf has reportedly agreed to terms on a three-year deal with the Warriors from next season, but the Sharks are unwilling to release the 24-year-old. 

Warrington Wolves prop Ben Murdoch-Masila - who has also signed with the Warriors for 2021 - has also expressed his willingness to join the club early, with the English Super League season suspended until August. 

Another player linked to the Warrior is Wests Tigers prop  Matt Eisenhuth.

NZ Warriors coach Stephen Kearney stressed that being able to loan players in is crucial, using young prospect Rocco Berry as an example.

Rocco Berry.
Rocco Berry. Photo credit: Photosport

Berry is one of the team's 26 fit players and he's one of the Warriors' hottest prospects, but he's only but he's only played two games of rugby league in his life. 

"We've got some development boys in there, and at this stage I don't want to be putting those guys into an NRL contest," Kearney said.

"One, [recent rugby union convert] Rocco Berry, he turned 19 last week and he's played two games of rugby league. So it's just not safe practice to be throwing someone like that in there.

"We're able to get by [in training] with 13 v 13 at the moment. I've got no doubt they could handle a game in the NRL... but I think it's a big ask to put [Berry] in there at this stage.

"If I had to put him in there for half an hour of an NRL match, he may be able cope with it I'm sure. But I certainly wouldn't want to be taking that risk."

Kearney admitted he has received messages from some retired players who have expressed interest in making a comeback, but he said he'll wait for a decision on the loan ruling. 

Former Warrior-turned Sky Sports reporter Blake Ayshford has been helping the Warriors at training to ensure they have enough players.

NRL 2020: St George Illawarra Dragons willing to loan prop Eddie Blacker to the NZ Warriors