Liddle chases No. 9 Jersey..

Jacob Liddle chasing Wests Tigers No.9 jersey after difficult start to NRL career

Ben Glover
April 6, 2018 6:00am
BEN GLOVER@glover_benny

AFTER seven months on the sidelines and two shoulder surgeries, young Wests Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle has set his sights on the No.9 jersey he’s been chasing for three years.

Since making his NRL debut as a teenager in 2016, the livewire hooker’s career has hit speed bump after speed bump, with injuries and rehab his only constant after bursting onto the scene.

Establishing himself in first grade under new coach Ivan Cleary last year, Liddle’s luck hit rock bottom when he injured his right shoulder in Round 19, putting a premature end to his season and forcing him to go under the knife.

Not only did he need surgery on his right shoulder, the decision was made to repair his left one, which he had injured in the pre-season, at the same time.

With both arms in slings, Liddle embarked on a seven month rehabilitation program before finally getting back onto the park for the Tigers’ Easter Monday win over the Eels.

His return came with a bang, with Liddle scooting out of dummy half and through Parramatta’s defensive line with his first touch after coming on in the first half when starting hooker Pita Godinet went off for a concussion test.

It was a swift reminder of the explosive acceleration that makes the young gun such a threat around the ruck and has had him tipped for big things since he was 18.

While he doesn’t expect to push for the starting team in the next few weeks, Liddle says he wants the responsibility that comes with the Tigers’ famous No.9 jersey and sees an opportunity to supercharge the team’s attack, which had struggled to fire in the first three rounds.

“Definitely long-term, I want to wear that No.9 jersey,” Liddle told

“I think at the moment I just want to keep on playing footy and getting my match fitness up and getting my tackling right. But I was pretty happy with the hit out today.”

In his 30-minute cameo off the bench on Monday Liddle ran for 62 metres from his three darts out of dummy half.

Exploiting quick play the balls has always been his strength and Liddle says he has been encouraged by Cleary to take the game on whenever he sees an opening.

“That’s my normal game, just to run on quick play the balls if there’s only one marker or something,” Liddle said.

“I look to get out fast and hopefully the boys come with me. Ivan encourages that, he loves it.

“If we’ve got a fast play the ball he wants me to look to get over the advantage line and run at them.”

It’s a style that is somewhat in contrast to what the Tigers get from veteran hooker Godinet, which explains their slow reactions to Liddle’s first scoot against the Eels.

Luke Brooks is one of the fastest halves in the NRL and even he was unable to loom up alongside his younger teammate after being caught out by Liddle’s sharp work.

“He’s quick, he made that break and I was trying to catch up to him, I couldn’t catch him,” Brooks said.

“He’s a great player, so for his first game back after two shoulder reconstructions that’s a great effort from him, so he’s going to be good for us.”

Cleary was equally impressed by Liddle’s first game back.

“Jake’s a good young kid and a good player, very good player, got a lot of potential,” Cleary said.

“He went through two shoulder reconstructions at the end of last year, so he’s trained really hard and yeah, he’s a popular guy around the place and as I said, he’s got a lot of potential.”

Three years but just 15 games into his NRL career, Liddle is jumping out of his skin just to get onto the park and stay there so he can start to live up to his clear talent.

If he can do that, and with Josh Reynolds still to join a spine in the middle of a promising transition, the question marks over the side’s attack might soon be a thing of the past.

A fit Liddle increasing his minutes will go a long way in our success or not in 2018…

The kid is class from the very 1st trial game I saw him play…

Another of the yougsters we need to keep longterm

The likes of Marsters and Liddle seem so much more mature and professional than those geese we lost last year

We haven’t had that creative spark out of dummy half since around 2010 or so. The big thing here is it gives the defence another area to have to concentrate on and will open things up big time for Brooks. If the markers shoot too early, Liddle is off, if they hang then Brooks has another metre or two of space.

The kid deserves some luck with injury and if he can become a 60 - 80min hoooker with us, he will be in the sky blue possibly even next year.

Just hope he stays injury free because once he’s match fit our for forward pack starts to take on another dimension with his ability to get out of dummy half so quickly.

Godinet is a veteran?

Good luck JL… Hope you stay on the park long time

We have all been waiting for his return, I hope he has an awesome year.

If he stays injury free it will really boost our chances of playing finals this year.

Couldn’t imagine dealing with daily life with both arms in a sling…

Future NsW hooker.
Absolute gun.

He just needs to look at Benji. Similar story.

I hope Jacob goes from strength to strength from here on out. From all accounts, he’s got the ticks in all the right boxes. Smart, good player and right attitude. I hope he has every chance to reach his potential and if so, we do everything to keep him as a Tiger for life.

Looking into my crystal ball I see (in a few years time) Liddle in the number 9, Nathan Cleary in the 7 and in the number 6… Brooks. Hmmm.

This kid is the real deal -have always thought so.

Hasn’t been rushed back so hopefully the ops were a great success and he has no further problems with serious injury.

Has all the attributes of a class DH I think and the only part of his game that he needs to up a few rungs is his kicking game - I’m sure we have a few that can show him the way.

Good luck for the future Jake - let it rip.

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