Thompson ready to scale heights as smallest winger takes on tallest
By Adrian Proszenko
8 March 2018 — 7:41pm
The smallest winger in the NRL will take on the tallest after replacing one of the NRL’s most popular players in that position.
Of all the Wests Tigers off-season recruits, Corey Thompson is the most unheralded. However, the former Bulldogs’ decision to have another crack at the NRL has resulted in his surprise selection in Ivan Cleary’s team for round one. It is a huge vote of confidence, particularly given he is replacing David Nofoaluma, arguably the Tigers’ best player throughout a difficult 2017 campaign.
Thompson’s standing in the game, literally, is a talking point. According to the Tigers website, his official height is 178cm. In his first assignment, he will mark up on Roosters counterpart Daniel Tupou, all two metres of him.
Thompson is under no illusions he will be targeted with bombs and cross-kicks meant for Tupou and his centre partner Latrell Mitchell.
“I’ve never been six-foot-four, so not being as tall other wingers, you’ve learn to play to your strengths,” Thompson said.
“If you defuse the first couple they usually go away and try something else. Hopefully I get up high enough, catch it and run off. Then Cooper Cronk can decide to go to the other side.
“[Tupou] is a big, tall player but if I get that jump right I can get right up there with him. If I contest it with him, he’s going to have a hard time to get a clean catch.
“All I need is a second to get my hand on the ball first and it will be a good day.
“There are a lot of areas you can help yourself, not being as tall as the opposition. At the end of the day, if you’re both going up for it, it’s 50-50 anyway.”
Already, Thompson has the jump on Nofoaluma. When Fairfax Media revealed Nofoaluma’s surprise snubbing, Tigers fans and fantasy football aficionados went into meltdown. However, Thompson has proven himself to be a big inclusion whenever given an opportunity in first grade. The 27-year-old made 35 appearances for Canterbury in 2014-15, scoring 15 tries. Frustrated at never being able to cement a wing spot, he spent two seasons at Widnes, becoming one of the most prolific try-scorers in the Super League.
The decision to return to Australia has immediately been justified, but he will need to perform strongly to keep Nofoaluma in reggies.
“Nof’s a great player,” he said. “I have to be on my game or else he’ll be straight back in there.
“It shows how much depth the club has got, we’re all fighting for positions. When he found out he wasn’t playing he came up and spoke to me. It was all positive. All through pre-season, we’ve all helped each other. Nof has been nothing but positive, he will kill it in reserve grade. I’ve got to be on my game or I’ll be down there.”
Another Tiger with a point to prove is centre parner Esan Marsters. The Cook Islands international left his native New Zealand at the age of 17 in the hope of making it in the NRL. He trialled for the Roosters SG Ball side, but didn’t make the cut. Now he has a chance to remind the tri-colours what they are missing.
“Definitely, I’m going to have a lot of energy this week,” Marsters said.
“But I don’t have any grudges against them, they had to do what they had to do and I’m happy here at the Tigers.
“They had Latrell Mitchell, Angus Chricton, Connor Watson, Joseph Manu in that team.
“I’m happy how it worked out, I wasn’t playing really good footy at the time and there are no regrets. I’ll try to get the last laugh this weekend.”