Seumanufagai to step up without Woods
Wed 13 Apr, 2016, 4:30pm
By Jack Brady , National Correspondent , NRL.com
Ava Seumanufagai is ready to step up in the absence of Wests Tigers skipper Aaron Woods and has urged his teammates to do the same against the Storm at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
After the Tigers’ two-point loss to the Newcastle Knights in Round 6 coach Jason Taylor called for his team to lift in all aspects of training and playing – especially with Woods sidelined for the next month.
Seumanufagai backed his coach’s sentiment and said he’s noticed a change in some of the younger Tigers’ mindsets throughout the week.
“We have to be tougher as a team. We have to dig our heels deeper and when things aren’t going our way, we have to keep doing what we set out to do,” Seumanufagai told NRL.com
"There’s definitely been less complaining at training. When we’re sore and tired and coming to training we have had to stop complaining and just do the work. You have to work hard to be the best so that’s what we’re working on.
“Rugby league is all about your mentality and your approach it. The physical side will come when we’re mentally stronger. Now is the time for us to step up and get things going.”
Seumanufagai’s own role has become greater with Woods ruled out for between four and six weeks after suffering an ankle ligament injury against the Knights.
Seumanufagai has been named to start in the front row alongside Tim Grant and it will be just the fourth time in 70 NRL appearances that the 24-year-old will start from the opening whistle.
“I’m really looking forward to it. I can’t wait to show what I’ve got. You always want those games to come up against the best,” Seumanufagai said.
"I feel like I’ve always been ready to step up [into the starting team] if I have had to so it’s just another week for me.
"Woodsy brings a lot of talk into the team environment so Tim Grant and I are going to have to put our hands up. I feel I already am a talker on the field but I probably will have to give more now that Woodsy is out.
“I’m happy to do that and it’s going to be a good challenge for me that’s for sure.”
Grant backed Seumanufagai to complement the front row nicely.
“Ava’s been really impressive,” Grant told NRL.com.
“With the sort of stats he has been punching out he is the unsung hero of our forward pack this year.”
Grant isn’t lying either. Seumanufagai’s time spent on the field has increased over the opening six weeks of the season where he’s averaged 93.3 metres and 23.5 tackles.
“Last year I was finishing off with plenty of minutes and I reckon this year I’ve been maintaining that,” he said.
“I feel confident I can push out more minutes than usual. Whether I’m playing 20 minutes or 60-70 minutes, I’m buggered either way so I’ll be giving it my all.”