Payten upbeat as injury-struck Tigers face hard run to final



Payten upbeat as injury-struck Tigers face hard run to the finals
June 25, 2010

THEY have by far the toughest run into the finals of any top-five side but Wests Tigers have welcomed the challenge, with veteran forward Todd Payten calling it a ''bonus''.

The Tigers, third, face ladder leaders St George Illawarra tonight, starting an arduous run over the remaining 10 weeks, which includes Broncos, Titans, Cowboys, Sea Eagles, Sharks, Rabbitohs, Panthers, Eels, Storm and Titans again.

No other side in the top five faces as many top-eight opponents in the run home, while title hopefuls the Dragons, Titans, Sea Eagles, Roosters, Rabbitohs, Broncos and Knights all enjoy a bye in that time.

''In the next 10 to 12 weeks we want to start building some momentum and there is no better way to do that than against the better sides,'' Payten said.

''I would rather go against the tougher sides than the lower teams. It is a bonus for us.

''After 26 rounds are done, they don't mean anything once you get to the semi-finals. The teams who bring momentum in are the toughest to beat, look at Parramatta last year and Brisbane before that.''

Payten, who described the situation as similar to the Tigers' premiership-winning late charge in 2005, said he was ''100 per cent'' confident Tigers hooker Robbie Farah would start tonight after sitting out training this week with a shin injury.

Up to 18 players featuring in tonight's crucial all-Sydney NRL games could be auditioning for Origin jerseys as NSW begin the ''year zero'' restart with the naming of the side for game three on Monday.

Having lost an unprecedented five straight series, the Blues hierarchy will look at wide-ranging changes in a bid to stem Queensland's dominance next year and beyond by selecting a team for the future.

Payten says he is highly unlikely to be considered but does expect teammates Farah, Chris Heighington, Keith Galloway, Chris Lawrence and Bryce Gibbs to be discussed by selectors.

Dragons players Brett Morris, Beau Scott, Michael Weyman and Ben Creagh are incumbent Blues, while Matt Prior and Jamie Soward could be on the radar.

In the other match, between Penrith and Manly, Michael Gordon, Michael Jennings, Trent Waterhouse, Luke Lewis, Jason King, Anthony Watmough and Glenn Stewart will be closely reviewed by the selection panel, themselves facing the sack for the losing streak.

The Dragons have been easily the best performed side this season, with a points differential that is 71 better than nearest rival Penrith. But they struggle against the Tigers, having lost six of their past eight clashes.

Yet the Tigers are struggling with injury; halfback Robert Lui is out with knee trouble, their other half option, Tim Moltzen, is still weeks away from a return and new fullback Wade McKinnon is under a cloud.

''One of the centres [Lawrence or Blake Ayshford] will maybe go to five-eighth or maybe go to halfback,'' said Tigers assistant coach Royce Simmons.

''It's a bit of a worry when we look across and see Rob Lui and Timmy Moltzen, two of our halves training with the injured group, and they certainly won't play.

''And Wade McKinnon is another player that's going to try to train, but all them crucial positions, we're struggling a bit.''

While the Tigers are riding a four-match winning streak since the infamous drubbing by Souths, none of those victories came against top-eight teams.

''Obviously it's been a pretty decent last month for us but we know that we need to improve to go toe-to-toe with the Dragons,'' Farah said. ''Obviously they're the benchmark of the comp and it's going to be a real good challenge to see where we are at this point in time.''

Payten, who has been with the Wests Tigers since 2004, was not worried.

''This is definitely our strongest all-round squad since I've been here. I can confidently say we have got 22 handy first-graders - in the past I would have been doubtful if we had a few injuries.''


Well-known member
Apr 27, 2010
Gold Coast
I agree with Payten - only last week sheens had the headache of squeezing players into the final 17 - so now with the injuries a few decisions should be already made for him, and the team won't look any weaker.