Tigers ready to roar
10/03/2011 4:57 PM
Wests Tigers winger Lote Tuqiri insists it’s been business as usual as the club looks to put the Benji Marshall circus aside and live up to its tag as premiership heavyweights heading into the new season.
The Tigers showdown with the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium on Monday night has been completely overshadowed by the turmoil surrounding superstar Marshall, who was charged with assault following an incident in the early hours of last Saturday.
The spotlight on Marshall and the club has been relentless, with security guards stationed around the perimeter of the Tigers’ Concord training headquarters this week to keep the media at bay.
But Tuqiri, no stranger to controversy, doesn’t believe the drama has unsettled the side.
“It’s been fine, it’s been great. Nothing has changed,” he declared.
“No one’s missed a beat. It’s probably brought us closer.”
“We’ve got a tight group here and we were feeling for Benji but what’s done is done and his lawyers and the courts with deal with it when that time comes and we’re going to support him.”
“We’re like a family for him.”
This time last year all the headlines were about Tuqiri as he prepared to make his comeback to the NRL after eight seasons of rugby.
The dual international scored with his first touch and went on to plant the ball down 17 more times in a remarkable comeback to rugby league.
Ominously for rival wingers, Tuqiri believes he can only get better in 2011
“Physically I am in better shape than I was this time last year,” he said.
“I’ve done a lot in the physical stakes (and) I’ve done a lot of speed work and power work.”
“I feel really good. I am confident in my ability - always have been - and hopefully we can get off to a good start on Monday.”
The Tigers have figured prominently in premiership talk after falling one game short of the 2010 decider.
Tuqiri welcomes the extra heat.
“There’s a lot of pressure on us. Being second favourites is good but we’ve got to back that up on the field,” he said.
“With a bit more experience and depth, we can only get better.”
“The experience a lot of the young guys had last year will hold us in good stead.”