Weekly Notebook: Round One
Thu 5th March, 04:37PM
Saturday will mark the fourth time in the last five seasons that Wests Tigers have opened their campaign away from home, kicking off the year against the Gold Coast Titans at Cbus Super Stadium on Saturday, March 7.
As is always the case with the opening round of the year, anticipation and interest is high, but perhaps even more so for the two teams involved this week.
Both sides will no doubt be desperate to get their 2015 underway on a winning note.
Following their strong trial form — including a demolition of the Titans in the Auckland Nines earlier this year — Jason Taylor’s side will head into Saturday’s match as firm favourites, but certainly still wary of the talent that Neil Henry’s side possesses, as the new Head Coach alluded to when discussing the game earlier in the week.
“We’re expecting a Titans team that’s really desperate to put the saga of what they’ve been through to the side,” Taylor said. “The best way they’ll do that is playing well.
"We need to be ready for that this weekend — and we are.
“We’ve had some good trial form and a good pre-season overall, but we know that we need to go up a gear this weekend as the season kicks off.
“I’m confident that if we can stick to what we’ve worked on throughout pre-season and deliver for the full 80 minutes, we’ll walk away with the result.”
Forward Keith Galloway, who missed Round 1 last year before returning against the Titans in Round 2 for his first NRL game alongside fellow forward Aaron Woods, spoke a similar sentiment too this week regarding the Club’s focus.
“I don’t think it’s a tricky game to prepare for at all,” he said. “It’s Round 1.
“We’re pumped up. We know they’re going to send out a strong team and they’ll be keen to get out there and play a good game, but so are we. We’ve trained all pre-season for this, so we’re really looking forward to it and ready for it.
“We don’t address any other issue other than the fact that it’s Round 1.
“It’s going to be a tough game; we’ve got to go up there in their backyard, so there’s no doubt that it’s going to be a tough trip for us.”
Especially if the history books are anything to go by.
While Wests Tigers have a relatively strong record against the Gold Coast Titans, winning six of their 13 matches, and a solid record on the Gold Coast too, winning three of seven, the same doesn’t go for new Head Coach Jason Taylor, who has his first game in charge of an NRL side in over 2,000 days this week. Taylor has never won on the Gold Coast from his two matches, and has never defeated a team coached by Neil Henry — losing all four of their encounters.
Henry himself doesn’t have the greatest individual record as a coach against the Wests Tigers, winning just four from 11 matches, but did see his side post 50 points against Wests Tigers in his last match against the joint-venture, Round 26 of the 2013 season.
Wests Tigers Round 1 Fixtures
NRL — Saturday, March 7, 7:00pm AEDT vs. Gold Coast Titans (A)
NYC — Saturday, March 7, 4:45pm AEDT, vs. Gold Coast Titans (A)
NSW Cup — Saturday, March 7, 3:00pm AEDT, vs. Newtown Jets (A)
What To Watch for This Week
1. The Return of James Tedesco
Wests Tigers fans who attended the Club’s final trial match would have seen the return of James Tedesco from a serious knee injury sustained last year, but Saturday marks his first game back in the NRL, and thus his first return to the top grade. Tedesco’s early-season form in 2014 was second-to-none, and there’s no doubt that having him in the same side as close friends Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks for the first time will be a huge boost to Wests Tigers. The Italian international was close to the man-of-the-match when these two teams met on the Gold Coast last year — scoring a try and setting up another — to help guide Wests Tigers to their biggest ever victory over the Titans, an ominous sign if ever there was one.
2. The Inclusion of Kevin Naiqama
Moving to his third club in as many years, Kevin Naiqama will start on the right wing this week in the absence of David Nofoaluma, who is still recovering from his knee surgery. While it’s certainly too early to tell who will win that battle when both players are healthy, it’s clear that Naiqama is adjusting well to life at Wests Tigers and ready to hit the ground running in Round 1. His form in the Auckland Nines and the trial matches was superb, with the Fijian flyer saying he’ll be leaving “no stone unturned” this weekend. When he takes the field, Naiqama will become the 180th player to play first-grade for Wests Tigers.
3. The Evolution of Martin Taupau
Last time Martin Taupau went to the Gold Coast, he crossed for a four-pointer, was controversially denied another and caused havoc for the Titans defenders all afternoon. He’ll no doubt be looking to repeat that this weekend, and coming off the back of a strong off-season and a Four Nations championship, it’s fairly safe to assume he’ll do just that. “Every game for me is the same approach,” he said earlier this week. “"You’ve got to go in and do your job, and for me, I’ve got to be consistent in everything I do.” Taupau’s involvement with starting props Aaron Woods and Keith Galloway certainly looms as a storyline worth following.
Video of the Week
Wests Tigers kicked off their Forwards vs. Backs Tipping Competition this week, with Tim Simona and Ava Seumanufagai going head-to-head as they give their predictions.
It’s a Big Week For — Sauaso Sue
Coming off the bench for 17 of his 18 appearances last year, Sauaso Sue finds himself back in the starting team in the second row due to a few off-season departures. Having spent time at both front row and lock already in his short career, Sue is more than capable of making an impact in the back-row, where his strong defence will certainly come to the fore. But look also for his attacking contribution to increase now he’s in the starting side. Sue showed plenty of promising signs close to the line in the Four Nations and in the trial matches, so don’t be surprised if the Macquarie Fields junior steps up in attack this week.
Five Stories You Don’t Want to Miss
· Jason Taylor previews our team to take on the Titans (click here)
· Kevin Naiqama opens up on making his Club debut (click here)
· Martin Taupau not changing his approach at all in 2015 (click here)
· NYC Coach Brett Kimmorley discusses his first game in charge (click here)
· Key Matchups: All the key facts and figures for Round 1 (coming Friday)
They Said It — Dene Halatau
“Leadership is something that, for myself, has evolved over the past four to five seasons. I’ve been a utility for most of my career and as much as I’d like to settle in one spot and play there consistently, I think the way that JT is going to use me is to be covering a few different positions. I’m lucky that I can cover most of them, and I think that’s where I’ll be…"
Follow the action across all Wests Tigers social media accounts on Saturday with the hashtag #WTLive. Click here to follow the Club on Twitter for all live scores and commentary.
We’ve also got a special LIVE SHOW coming before Saturday’s NRL game!
More details to come tomorrow — live at www.weststigers.com.au/video/livestream!