The Wests Tigers play their first game of the season at the redeveloped Campbelltown Stadium this Sunday, and the timing couldn’t be better. The pre-season hype and four wins from the first five games are becoming distant memories for Tiger’s fans as the injury-hit team has now limped to two losses on the bounce. They are clearly lacking cohesion, discipline and confidence – things that hopefully a vocal and partisan home crowd can help correct.
Drop ball and dumb penalties killed off any chance of a win last at Penrith last week. Tim Sheens, who reaches the 600 game milestone as coach this weekend, described the second half against the Panthers as the worst 40 minutes of football he has seen from the Tigers since joining in the club in 2003. Hopefully that assessment serves as a wake up call for the boys this week.
On a positive note, Farah played very well against Penrith despite his injured elbow. Heighington was the best backrower and Tuqiri looked dangerous whenever he got involved. The instant classic try that this trio combined to score in the first half last week was the most exciting passage of play that Wests have put together in the past few weeks. Oh, and Marshall kicked 100% last week – how about that!?
The team selection for this week has certainly stirred up some heated debate among fans. Naming Farah at half, Fulton at hooker, Flanagan in the starting side and promoting young halfback/hooker Nathan Waters from the Magpies onto the bench is certainly a lot of movement to cover the continued absence of Lui at halfback. The Sheens experiment of playing Lazarus at halfback then moving him to fullback/wing and reshuffling most of the backline to accommodate this over the past two games was clearly destabilising. But shifting Farah, one of the best attacking dummy halves in the league, out of position is far from ideal. Presumably Farah and Waters will share the halfback/hooker role, but it remains to be seen how the announced team actually take the field on Sunday.
In the ANZAC Day clash, the Dragons demonstrated a basic blueprint for defeating the Roosters: Five-tackle, kick-chase football and build up pressure on your opponent. The exact formula that both Sheens and Farah admitted is missing from the Tiger’s current playbook. No matter who plays in what position, mastering the fundamentals of ball control and making effective tackles will be the overriding factor in collecting the W this week.
Sydney Roosters will also be without regular halfback Pearce, but of course they still boast plenty of attacking ability in Carney and Anasta. You hate to describe a game in the first week of May as being a must-win, but that’s the reality of it. The Roosters racked up 44 points against us in Round 2, so now is the perfect time to get revenge in front of our home crowd before the week 9 bye.
Fortune Teller: Tuqiri will score the first try and Lawrence will score the last try of the match. The Wests Tigers get their season back on track with a 26 – 16 win. You can bet on it!