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Souths gun Dargan nearly denied Cleary his schoolboys dream

Battese took charge of the Schoolboys on a tour of England and France in 2014 that included Dargan as well as Souths pin-up Latrell Mitchell. For the record, Mitchell started that tour at fullback before Battese shifted him ot the centres where he thought he was better suited.

“Brock Lamb and Jack Cogger were the starting halves on that tour, but ‘Dargs’ played a couple of Tests against France,” Battese told the Herald. “Dargs was a pleasure to have on tour and he worked hard.

Debutant Troy Dargan will replace Cody Walker in the halves on Friday night.

Debutant Troy Dargan will replace Cody Walker in the halves on Friday night.Credit:AAP Image/Mark Evans

“He had another year to play the following year, and my plan was to stick with Jack and Dargs in 2015. I remember getting back from Europe and thinking these two kids did a good job and knew all our patterns.

“But then Dargs and Jack got injured and I ended up picking Scott Drinkwater [now at North Queensland] as my halfback and Nathan Cleary at five-eighth.

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“I was only thinking the other day how it would have been interesting had they all remained fit. There was a good chance Dargs would have been there. Some tough decisions would have been made.”

Cleary has gone on to become one of the most gifted halfbacks in the game and is a two-time Origin winner.

Dargan, whose NRL journey comes via stints at Parramatta and Brisbane, is expected to see plenty of traffic against the Roosters, who will try to test out the 22-year-old.

Souths, however, are just as happy to target Kyle Flanagan who is still relatively inexperienced and himself under pressure to deliver the premiers their first win in the post-Cooper Cronk era.

Bennett said of Dargan: “He has a really good skill-set, he’ll handle the job well. He’s trained great since he’s been here, and when I had him at the Broncos he was excellent there as well. He has a lot of good things going for him.”

Wentworthville officials can stil remember a young Dargan slotting a couple of late field-goals to win a few NSW Cup games for them. He left Brisbane to come to Souths in the off-season after Connor Tracey signed with Cronulla, and impressed in the second half against St George Illawarra in the Charity Shield.

James Roberts was overlooked for this week as he regains fitness after being treated for depression and anxiety at a rehabilitation facility, but could return as early as next week against Melbourne, said Bennett.

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