Aussie ace a key man for Eagles

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UTILITY man Dane McDonald will play a key role for Sheffield Eagles in the problem half-back position for the opening games of the season.

McDonald’s ability to switch between positions saw him partner Simon Brown in the halves in the win at Gateshead Thunder in the opening game.

That’s likely to continue as new signing Quentin Laulu-Togagae, who has been given the number six stand-off shirt, waits in Australia for his UK visa. McDonald’s best position is likely to be loose-forward but he’s taken the play-maker role before.

The 23-year-old Australian was at half-back for the opening seven games last year and was often called to play the role until his season was cut short by injury.

Coach Mark Aston said: “Dane’s looking sharp. At the start of last season he was one of our better players. I see a lot of potential in Dane - he can play ball and he’s starting to mature and is getting experience.”

McDonald looked comfortable at half-back in the 32-20 win in the opening Northern Rail Cup group stages game last Sunday.

He had a hernia repair operation late last year and has returned from a break back home in Australia looking fit at a slimmed down 92 kilos (14st 6 lbs) – around 10 kilos (1st 8lbs) less than last year.

He will wear the loose-forward’s 13 shirt but he’ll be happy to play at half-back in Sunday’s first home game of the season against Whitehaven at Don Valley Stadium.

McDonald said: “I want to play loose forward, it’s my favourite position, but I’ll play in any position that’s best for the team.”