KYLE Stanley — the player originally touted to fill Darius Boyd’s fullback position — is set to replace the retiring Ben Hornby following the skipper’s decision to retire in two matches.
With coach Steve Price declaring a dearth of quality halves on the open market, Stanley has been targeted for the hot spot.
Arguably the Dragons greatest-ever clubman, Hornby, 32, will leave as the most successful player since St George’s golden 11 year premiership stretch in 1956-66.
With 271 first grade games, he has played the most of any Dragon since their inception in 1921.
Having achieved more than he ever imagined — he captained the club to a 2010 premiership and has represented state and country — Hornby has run out of puff.
‘‘Mentally I’m a little worn out,’’ Hornby said. ‘‘I’ve done everything and more than I could have hoped. I think the body is in good shape.
‘‘It’s been a difficult season for everyone. It’s taken its toll.’’
Up until last week, the Dragons had expected Hornby to play on next year with the intention of grooming Stanley to be his long-term successor.
After the club missed out on Melbourne Storm ace Cooper Cronk earlier this year, the off-contract halves list is near empty.
Stanley’s recent knee reconstruction, his third, further complicates the puzzle for Price.
‘‘From the outset there hasn’t been a hell of a lot of halves on the open market,’’ Price said.
‘‘We’ve got Stanley, Jamie Soward and Nathan Fien so we’ve got some good halves but the important thing is that we get Kyle’s body right.
‘‘We know the sky is the limit for him.
With Stanley forced into a utility position since making his first grade debut three seasons ago, Price said the best of Stanley had yet to be seen.
‘‘His best position is in the halves and that opportunity will arise in the off-season,’’ Price said.
‘‘We’ll sit back now and review our playing roster and then we’ll make a decision on which way we’ll go.’’
For Price, he loses almost 500 games of experience with Hornby joining Dean Young on the sidelines at the end of this year.
The pair will farewell WIN Stadium when they play New Zealand Warriors on Saturday afternoon.
‘‘Ben has been great for me,’’ Price said. ‘‘He is a straight shooter, not afraid to say what he thinks with a great footy brain, and has been a great shoulder for me.’’
Backrower Ben Creagh, a leading candidate as skipper, tried to talk Hornby out of quitting last week, but Hornby told the players just minutes following their loss to North Queensland on Monday night, which ended their finals hopes.
‘‘I’ve played directly alongside Ben for a lot of my footy,’’ Creagh said. ‘‘It’s going to be difficult but something we have to work together as a team. The captaincy is something I don’t want to talk about now in respect to Ben.
‘‘I think we should play out the season and when pre-season comes along it’ll be something we’ll discuss. I’ve been a senior player for a long time now and whatever Pricey wants me to do I’m always happy to do.’’
The match kicks off at 5.30pm.
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