Wests Tigers are adamant they can “absolutely” make this season’s finals without fullback James Tedesco, even though they have only won half the games he has missed this year.
Of the four club matches Tedesco has missed through a shoulder injury or when playing in Origin III, the Tigers won two and lost two.
The value of the 23-year-old, who will undergo surgery tomorrow on a fractured jaw, is clear by perusing the 2016 stats. Tedesco has scored 14 tries in 17 games but has also 12 try assists — which means he’s had a hand in 26 tries, or exactly one third of his team’s 78 four-pointers so far.
“We can definitely fill his spot,” second-rower Kyle Lovett said yesterday. “We’ve got a few good outside backs who can play fullback. We’ll be right,”
Fellow second-rower Josh Aloiai was even more certain. “Absolutely,” he said.” We’ve got good cover for him so whoever steps up into the role will do the job.”
The Tigers play Penrith at Pepper Stadium on Friday. They must win every one of the three rounds left to make the finals.
“Destiny is in our hands. We have to win each week and we’re in a position where we have a lot of control over that,” said backrower Joel Edwards. “Teddy is a fantastic player but we’ve got to be positive and all step forward. The team will have to lift.
“I thought Jordan Rankin was great on the weekend when he stepped into the role. But whoever (coach) Jason (Taylor) picks will have to do that little bit extra to fill Teddy’s void.”
Rankin played at No 1 in three of the four matches Tedesco missed and he is the most likely candidate to be named there as it seems unlikely Tedesco will play again in the regular club season.
But better news came yesterday when halfback Luke Brooks, returning from a posterior cruciate ligament strain in his knee, completed a training session which included plenty of kicking.
“He was training last week and he looked pretty good, we will see how he is closer to Friday,” Lovett said. “It is always a boost getting a player like Luke back in the team.”
The Gold Coast have decided to fight the grade two careless high tackle charge Ryan James attracted for hitting Tedesco. If he is successful at the judiciary he can play against Newcastle on Saturday. If he’s found guilty he will miss one week. The lightness of the penalty, considering Tedesco’s jaw was broken, certainly had a few heads turning in the NRL, and not just at the Tigers.
“The most unfortunate thing is that the Wests Tigers have lost their star player for the rest of the year. Ryan James takes a week — does the punishment really fit the crime?” asked Brisbane captain Corey Parker on Sky Sports radio yesterday. “I dunno, I guess sometimes we are all left scratching our heads. The fans are the stakeholders and from what I can tell they have no idea what is going on.
“Is the system working … that is what we need to discuss. I’m not pointing the finger at Ryan James. This isn’t his fault but when the fans are left scratching surely we need to listen to that. I don’t have an answer but I know there are plenty of questions being asked.”
Edwards summed up the feelings of the Tigers players on the charge the Titans prop received.
“If you touch a referee you get one week … I’ll let you fill in the blanks,” he said.
Sports reporter The Australian
Additional reporting: Dan Koch