BY PAUL HAIGH
08 Sep, 2010 12:00 AM
FOR the first time in five years the Wests Tigers are back in the NRL finals and their quest to win a second premiership begins this Saturday against the Sydney Roosters at the Sydney Football Stadium.
The Tigers finished the 26 premiership rounds third on 34 points and tackle the sixth-placed Roosters, who finished on 32 points, at 6.30pm.
Since the Tigers formed in 2000 they have made the finals just once before.
That was in 2005 and they defeated North Queensland 30-16 in the grand final, claiming their inaugural premiers’ crown.
The SFS is one of the Tigers’ home venues. The other two grounds are Campbelltown Sports Stadium and Leichhardt Oval.
By finishing in the top four the Tigers gained the right to host a home final and play the Roosters at the SFS, ironically their home ground as well.
Tigers’ officials have predicted a crowd of more than 30,000 for the final.
The club’s loyal army of supporters, starved of finals footy in the past five years, are expected to turn out in force.
Among the key players for the Tigers in the finals are Benji Marshall, hooker and skipper Robbie Farah, British star second-rower Gareth Ellis and lock Chris Heighington.
Marshall has proved to be an ironman for the Tigers this year playing in all 24 games and scoring 187 points — 12 tries, 3 field goals and 68 goals.
The Tigers, missing several players with injury, lost their final premiership game 21-18 to the Gold Coast Titans at Skilled Park on Friday night.
Prop Bryce Gibbs (knee), second-rower Liam Fulton (calf muscle), fullback Wade McKinnon (hamstring) and centre Geoff Daniela (hamstring) missed the Titans’ clash and will be monitored by the club’s medical staff this week.
Centre Chris Lawrence is also sidelined with a broken jaw but could play in three weeks if cleared by the club doctor.
Halfback Tim Moltzen, who has been sidelined with a knee reconstruction, has been training and doing rehabilitation work on his knee in recent weeks but won’t play until next year.