INJURED: Euan Aitken will give the Dragons a headache when he returns from injury.
INJURED: Euan Aitken will give the Dragons a headache when he returns from injury. CRAIG GOLDING

McGregor's selection headache over Aitken

INJURED centre Euan Aitken will give St George Illawarra coach Paul McGregor a selection headache when he returns from injury in a fortnight.

McGregor shifted fullback Josh Dugan to the centres to replace Aitken, keeping rookie Matt Dufty at No.1 for Saturday's NRL clash against Newcastle.

Dufty debuted in the Dragons' 50-point effort against Manly last week, giving McGregor what could be a season-defining selection risk on Aitken's return.

McGregor dodged crowning the 21-year-old Dufty as the long-term replacement for Cronulla-bound Dugan next year, but said this week's decision to keep him at fullback was easy.

"It was a likely replacement for such an important player that Euan is, and such a world-class player that Josh is, and the position he holds in that arena," McGregor said.

"Duff's was a solid performance, we all agree upon that. With young Euan out, it makes it a likely replacement with Josh going there with his experience."

As for what happens when Aitken returns, it will come down to form.

"We're thinking two weeks at the moment. At the end of the year, there'll be some surgery that will be required," McGregor said.

"He's working hard with his injury. When he does get back on the field, we'll make a decision there and it'll be mainly on form then."

McGregor admitted the Dragons hold the key to this year's final make-up of the top eight, with his men needing to beat the Knights to stay two points ahead of ninth-placed Penrith.

The Panthers on Thursday joined the Dragons on 24 points after beating Canterbury, with just five weeks remaining in the regular season.