NRL 2018: Wests Tigers’ Corey Thompson describes fullback role as ‘perfect’ before potential clash with James Tedesco’s Sydney Roosters

By Adam Pengilly
Updated25 February 2018 — 8:11pm,first published at 10:42am

He’s the smallest and perhaps least celebrated out of a string of summer arrivals, but replacing James Tedesco in the Tigers No.1 jersey and then lining up against him in the opening round is doing little to faze surprise fullback frontrunner Corey Thompson.

The pint-sized 27-year-old, who rose to prominence as a member of the Bulldogs’ grand final side in 2014 before a two-year switch to the Super League, is favoured to edge out Tui Lolohea as Ivan Cleary’s fullback to start the season.

Thompson’s recruitment has barely created a blip compared to the arrivals of Josh Reynolds, Benji Marshall, Russell Packer, Chris McQueen and Ben Matulino, but he could prove one of the Tigers’ shrewdest signings.

He was a standout in the trial loss to the Sharks on the weekend, with Cleary asking Lolohea to play in an Intrust Super Premiership curtain-raiser.

Having spent the majority of his top-grade career on the wing, Thompson was quick to point out he had played most of his football in his younger days at fullback and would relish the opportunity to return there.

“Fullback is perfect and there’s no excuses,” Thompson said. "You can pop up anywhere and join the team where you like. People say, ‘You’re not as tall as the other wingers’, but it doesn’t bother me. If I play my best and do my job it’s not going to be a factor.

“I knew I could still give the NRL a crack and I didn’t want to sit in England and miss playing back home. I had a good first year in England and the second year I was just watching all my mates playing back home in the atmosphere and competitiveness of the NRL. I spoke to my manager and we were lucky enough to come to the Tigers.”

If Thompson is given the nod for the opening round against the premiership favourites, he could be one of up to six Tigers debutants to run out at ANZ Stadium.

Lolohea was thought to be the natural No.1 choice for Cleary, but the fact the Tigers have registered their interest in off-contract Warriors ace Roger Tuivasa-Sheck suggests nothing is set in stone, which means they could well turn to one of the smallest men in the game to fill the role in the interim for a baptism of fire against Tedesco’s Roosters.

“Tui’s a great fullback and he’s a gun on the field, but I’m going to do all I can to get on the field whether it be on the wing, centre, fullback … wherever,” Thompson said.

"I’m going to train my hardest and play my hardest to try to get a spot. The amount of good backs we have here everyone is pushing each other hard to get a spot and that should make the team better.

“I was at the Bulldogs when [Tedesco] was at the Tigers and it was difficult to play against him. You would kick-chase and somehow he would beat five of you and then he would be off down the field.”

Tedesco starred for the Roosters with a two-try blitz within the space of five second-half minutes in a narrow trial win over Manly on Saturday night, sounding an ominous warning to his former employers.

“I pulled up well,” Tedesco told the Roosters’ website. “The body felt good and I felt pretty fit. There’s a lot to improve on, but it’s a good starting point.”