Dwyer up against ‘Group 11’s best’ in must-win clash for Spacies at Larkin Oval

HEAD-TO-HEAD: Parkes half Joey Dwyer will line-up against one of Group 11's toughest halves in the form of Nyngan recruit Josh Merritt during Sunday's round 11 clash at Larkin Oval.
HEAD-TO-HEAD: Parkes half Joey Dwyer will line-up against one of Group 11's toughest halves in the form of Nyngan recruit Josh Merritt during Sunday's round 11 clash at Larkin Oval.

If you scan through a series of Parkes Spacemen programs over the last couple of years, you’ll find Joey Dwyer’s name listed anywhere from fullback to five-eighth, and virtually everywhere in between.

But the young utility has found a home in 2018, after a series of departures and retirements opened up an opportunity in his preferred position in the halves.

The live-wire halfback has been more than decent in his first genuine crack in the Spacemen’s halves, too, helping guide the club alongside five-eighth Chad Porter to within striking distance of the Group 11 top three with four rounds remaining.

But on Sunday at Nyngan the 20-year-old will face arguably the toughest test of his fledgling career in the Parkes No.7 jumper.

And it’ll be a whirlwind one at that.

“Josh Merritt, he’s capable of putting on three tries in about three minutes,” Dwyer said, looking forward to marking up against one of the western region’s most enigmatic halves.

Merritt has played four games with Nyngan since jumping ship from Bathurst St Pat’s before the June 30 deadline.

The Tigers have won two of those games to now sit fifth on the ladder, while he’s scored at least one try in all of those games and just last week booted nine goals, too.

“Josh, on his day, is the best player in Group 11 by a mile,” Dwyer added.

“I’ve watched him and analysed his game ... we’ve just got to try and shut down his game a bit.

“He’s a great player though.”

Shutting Merritt down is easier said than done, but it’s a job Parkes has to tackle in order to snap a two-game losing streak, one that’s slid the Spacemen down to fourth on the ladder.

Dwyer said the club has battled a case of the second half yips in narrow losses to CYMS and Wellington in the last fortnight.

Those lapses have been addressed, and both he and halves partner Chad Porter are determined to guide the Spacies back to the winners’ circle at Larkin Oval.

“We’ve spoken about our second-half performances and it’s the little things costing us,” he said.

“A win this week is a must.”

Dwyer was confident his combination with Porter was flourishing enough to lift the Parkes outfit into the top three.

“I let Chad direct the team and I just try and play off the cuff, off the back of his work,” Dwyer said, with Brandon Paige and skipper Alex Prout helping form the Spacies 2018 spine.

Although Prout is in danger of missing Sunday’s game with a mystery injury sustained in last week’s loss to Wellington.

“Prouty was at training, but I’m not sure if he’s playing," Dwyer added.

“It’s been different this year, without (brother) Sam (Dwyer). He’s played with me forever, but Brandon Paige has stepped up there and done a great job.”

Parkes travels to Nyngan on Sunday.

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