James Graham returns but Ben Hunt rested for St George Illawarra's clash with Penrith Panthers

Ben Hunt will be rested for St George Illawarra's clash with Penrith on Friday night. Picture: AAP Image
Ben Hunt will be rested for St George Illawarra's clash with Penrith on Friday night. Picture: AAP Image

Just about every match between now and the end of the season is must-win for St George Illawarra.

But if the Dragons are to get the job done against the in-form Panthers at Penrith on Friday night, they will need to do it without their star halfback.

Dragons coach Paul McGregor has elected to rest Ben Hunt for the Panthers clash, with Darren Nicholls to wear the No.7 jersey in Hunt's place.

The 29-year-old played all three State of Origin matches at hooker for Queensland, earning him a rest against the Panthers.

It appears a gamble from McGregor, with the Dragons slipping to 14th on the NRL table and four points outside the top eight as the competition approaches the final stretch of the regular season.

The Dragons look likely to need to win at least six of their remaining eight games to make the finals.

St George Illawarra have received some good news, with James Graham named to return at lock from a broken leg.

Reece Robson and Jacob Host have been dropped from the squad, with Josh Kerr and Patrick Kaufusi named on the bench.

The match will be Tyson Frizell's 150th NRL game.

McGregor labeled St George Illawarra's loss to Canberra as their worst performance of the season and will be expecting a vastly different Dragons effort against Penrith.

"That's not acceptable and you can call it desire, attitude, effort but it comes down to pride in your own performance to make those tackles, to hold onto the footy in important times, to be disciplined and take a step if you need to take a step in your 10 metres, to hold the footy when there's one on one strips," McGregor said.

"All that sort of stuff you can control yourself, you get a choice."

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