Wests Tigers trio bring mixture of youth and experience to Nines
Friday 14 February 2014 10:48 AM
They’re the perfect combination of youth and experience, and with plenty of speed and space to work with, the 2014 Auckland Nines tournament could be the perfect launching pad for a strong year ahead for these stars of the Wests Tigers back-line.
James Tedesco, Marika Koroibete and Pat Richards make the trip across the Tasman this week knowing that expectations on them will be high. Outside backs are expected to have a field day over the two-day competition and while the prospect of any of them in open space is certainly a tantalizing prospect, the trio are doing their best to remain grounded about the weekend ahead.
“It’s definitely going to be a great weekend away with the boys, and I’m excited about the concept and the tournament,” said Richards. “But it’s a brand new concept, teams didn’t know much about the Sevens in 2004 and we don’t really know much about the Nines now either.”
Even just talking about 2004, though, Richards’ excitement for the tournament is evident.
Richards is the only remaining player from the Wests Tigers’ breakthrough success at the then World Sevens tournament in 2004 to be playing this weekend. And while much has changed for the Ireland international since then, including a move to Wigan and back, his enthusiasm for the new modified form of the game remains the same.
As hdoes his belief that pre-season success can be the spark needed for a big year ahead.
“We won the Sevens in ’04 and then won the premiership a year later, so who knows!”
The club’s other outside backs heading to Auckland share similar sentiments to Richards, even if they aren’t going to be as familiar with the modified competition.
“It should be a good trip with the boys,” said Tedesco, the Wests Tigers Rookie of the Year for 2013. “It’ll be a good bonding time over there so hopefully it’ll be good for team morale, I’m definitely excited about it.
“I’ve never really played Nines before, so it’ll be a good experience,” he said. “Our training’s been a bit different with a bit more room, which is what us backs like, so I think it’ll suit our type of play. It’ll definitely be tough, but very interesting.”
Fijian flyer Marika Koroibete was similarly excited about the competition, and even broke out a smile as he imagined himself with additional space on the field.
“I’ve been really looking forward to the Nines for a while now, it should be good. Having more space on the field will be a real benefit for me because I’ve got a bit of speed. There’s a lot of fast boys going to Auckland so it’ll be competitive.”
“I’m excited to get the ball in a bit more space and fly down the sideline,” he said.
With 12 tries already in his 15-game NRL career, there’s no doubting that Koroibete will be one of the key players to watch in Auckland, with his strong ball-running and cover defence characteristics that will certainly shine in the competition. Yet even with fewer players on the field around him, the 21-year-old wouldn’t be drawn into discussing himself, instead praising the entire Wests Tigers squad heading over the Tasman.
“We’ve got a pretty good team, lots of young guys going over and some senior guys, and it’ll be a good experience. The young boys have got heaps of talent and heaps of speed, so I’m going there to try and go get a trophy,” said Koroibete.
“All other clubs don’t really rate us as a top team at the moment,” said Tedesco. “So I think that if we have a pretty good Nines tournament we can sort of prove that the talent is still in the team. We’re definitely confident as a team that we can go well in the NRL and the Nines, and I think we’ll go out there and show them what we’ve got.”
“It’d be awesome to win the Nines, it’d be an awesome start to the year.”
The Wests Tigers kick off their Auckland Nines tournament when they take on the Gold Coast Titans at 11:00am AEDT on Saturday, February 15, before following that up later in the afternoon when they take on the Cronulla Sharks at 2:20pm.