March 15, 2018 6:00am James Hooper Source: FOX SPORTS
IN the halcyon days of the 1980s it was personalities like Steve Roach, Les Davidson, Craig Young and Mark Geyer.
Enforcers who more often than not left the opposition sleeping with one eye open the night before and after a match.
Shift into the 1990s and it was names like Paul Harragon, Mark Carroll, David Gillespie and Gorden Tallis.
Genuine characters splashed with a dash of villain who made an afternoon on the Sydney wharves or a shift down the mines look like easy work.
Which brings us to the Wests Tigers and one of their newly-crowned co-captains — Russell Packer — an old-school style of new breed enforcer.
After claiming a points victory over the Sydney Roosters and specifically Jared Warea-Hargreaves last Saturday, Packer faces an even bigger challenge in round two.
The premiers the Melbourne Storm might have lost Jordan McLean to the Cowboys but they’ve replaced him with Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
“There’s no easy ones in the comp, is there?” Packer says when asked about his latest front-row battle.
“Look, it was a good challenge to go up against Jared last week.
“It will be no different this week.
“The Storm have got probably the best front-rower in Jesse Bromwich and probably the best young front-rower in Nelson Asofa-Solomona.
“I spent a bit of time with Nelson through the World Cup campaign, he’s definitely a beast. Powerful, got a big engine. And he’s only 22 years old.
“It’s really crazy to think what kind of talent they’ve got there in their front row.
“In saying that, we’ve got a pretty fair pack ourselves. I guess we’ve got that bit of underdog mentality. I know that will be no different going into the Storm game.
“We’ve got to rely on the pack I guess. We’ve got to work hard together. It’s worked for a game, the blue print is there.
“It’s a hard one but hopefully we can all do our roles and that can be good enough to help for a team win.”
Right there underlines why Tigers coach Ivan Cleary opted for Packer in his leadership group.
Club first, team second, individual third.
Packer’s journey has been well-documented and his growth as a man and a leader since should be celebrated as one of rugby league’s great stories.
You only need to listen to him talk about Cleary and his strengths as an NRL coach to get an insight into why.
“For whatever reason he seems to bring out the best in people. He gives them space to grow and be their own person,” Packer said.
“Which I think is important in a team. There’s so many different characters throughout the game.
“The best teams allow individual personalities to come through.
“I reckon that can create a really good culture put together in the right way and Ivan’s got a really good blue print for that.”
No one will give the Wests Tigers a hope against Melbourne in Billy Slater’s 300th NRL game.
When you see the world the way Packer does, it matters little.
Packer won’t top the Tigers run-metres but his role is still just as important as what Slater, Cameron Smith or Cameron Munster will bring for the Storm.
He has that genuine, old-school fear factor which is harder and harder to find in the modern game.