Watene-Zelezniak keen to extend Tigers future
By James Buckley - 29 March 2018 — 4:15pm
Malakai Watene-Zelezniak is playing for a new contract at the Wests Tigers this year, and the former Panther is desperate to stay at the joint venture after establishing himself on the wing under the tutelage of Ivan Cleary. The 26-year-old switched from Penrith in April last season, fighting off interest from Manly to land at Concord on a deal which runs through to the end of this year. But contract talks beyond this year are yet to begin for Watene-Zelezniak, who knows Monday’s clash with Parramatta represents another opportunity to prove to Cleary that he belongs in his long-term plans. “Hopefully I can try and work out something for a few more years to come,” Watene-Zelezniak said. "There was a bit of interest from Manly at the time but as soon as I found out that Ivan was coach here, there was no doubt about it, I wanted to come here. I pressed my manager to try and get me here.
"I worked with him before at Penrith in my first year out of 20s. I just loved Ivan as a coach then - I just loved the way he coached. "I’m more than happy here, I’ve improved as a player and as a person, not only on field but off field as well. I’m loving the vibe here, I’m loving the culture so I’m happy. "I haven’t even spoken to my manager yet. He’s good in that way, he lets me focus on the field and he’ll deal with all the off-field contract talks. “At the moment I’m just focusing on playing some good footy and letting my footy do the talking.”
Watene-Zelezniak is yet to score a try for the Tigers this year but he’s hardly in the minority - only three players have crossed the line in the opening three rounds. Their game has been built around the league’s best defence which has conceded just two tries en route to a pair of wins, and last week’s controversial golden-point loss to the Brisbane Broncos.
“We’ve really prided ourselves on our strong defence, our attack will come but a good start to the season and we’re taking the confidence from it,” Watene-Zelezniak said. "We wanted to get that bit right, we wanted to get that down pat and I think at the start of the season we’ve been able to do that. "We have a focus on turning up for each other. If you miss a tackle you know that your mate’s going to be there next to you to help you out. “The improvement of our edge defence comes massively from our middle. Our middle’s been so dominant in the first opening rounds which gives us the confidence out wide.” The Tigers will chase their third win of the season against the struggling Eels at ANZ Stadium in their traditional Easter Monday clash. Five-eighth Benji Marshall is racing the clock to be fit for the game after rupturing two ankle ligaments against the Broncos.