Aaron Woods on drip as virus flattens Wests Tigers before Canberra Raiders clash
Wests Tigers captain Aaron Woods is bed-ridden on a drip and racing the clock to play in what looms as the Wests Tigers’ biggest game in five years.
The club has been rocked by a virus that has swept across the team and left its captain, who has been quarantined from the rest of the team, recovering at home after being rattled by the illness he picked up in New Zealand over the weekend.
Tigers hooker Dene Halatau is also battling the effects of the virus that was passed on by forward Kyle Lovett, who was a late withdrawal from last week’s victory over the Warriors in Auckland.
Woods, a notable omission from training on Wednesday, is racing the clock to overcome the illness that has left him feeling weak and sore in time for what could be a do-or-die blockbuster showdown against the Raiders at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.
“We’ve had it going through the group for a little bit now,” Tigers coach Jason Taylor told Fairfax Media.
"We had a couple struggling with it prior to the Penrith game and a couple prior to last week’s game. Now we have a couple more again. But the beauty of this a little bit is it’s happened early in the week.
“We’re definitely hoping to get them back to training at the end of the week and confident they’ll be right for the game.”
While Lovett was forced to withdraw from the match against the Warriors because of the illness, back-rower Curtis Sironen was limited to just five minutes off the bench as he battled the virus from the sidelines.
It was the inspired performance of Woods against the Warriors that has ensured the Tigers are still alive heading into the final round, however they require the Cowboys to beat the Titans on Saturday if their clash against Canberra is to count for anything.
Fullback James Tedesco did some non-contact work with the team during Wednesday’s session, however he isn’t expected to play until at least the first week of the finals if the Tigers manage to scrape into the top eight.
Tedesco was originally expected to be unavailable until the second week of the finals after breaking his jaw a fortnight ago in a tackle from Titans prop Ryan James, but club officials are holding out hope of their fullback could be available if they book a passage into the opening week of the finals series.
A large reason for the Tigers’ success over the past six weeks has been the form of five-eighth Mitchell Moses, who has been the club’s best player over that period.
“He’s been outstanding over the past few weeks,” halfback Luke Brooks said. "He has really taken control of the team and really become a leader both on and off the field. That brings a bit of confidence and you can see on the field how much confidence he has got.
“Growing up playing with him I’ve seen this before so it’s no surprise to me. But when he has a lot of confidence he’s really on. He’s been taking on the line a lot, and that’s a good sign for him.”
If the Titans lose and the Tigers can upset the high-flying Raiders, they’ll sneak into the finals after another drama-packed season both on and off the field.
But if they don’t play finals football, Brooks believes the season will go down as a failure.
“At the start of the year we had a goal to make the top eight,” Brooks said.
“If we don’t do that, I guess we’ve failed. In saying that we have made a lot of progress in the way we play and we’ve come a long way. We want to keep building on it whether we make the finals or not. But we definitely do want to make the finals.”