Giant Tigers cubs ready to roar off bench to cap impressive

Giant Tigers cubs ready to roar off bench to cap impressive debut seasons for club
Glenn Jackson
September 15, 2011

THIS time last year, the closest Aaron Woods and Matt Groat got to an NRL final was watching them on the television. Woods watched the Tigers’ charge from his home, while Groat wasn’t even out of school, watching on from his dormitory.

‘‘This time last year I would have been sitting in the St Greg’s [Campbelltown] boardo, watching footy,’’ Groat said. ‘‘It’s been really good to get the call-up. I’m really grateful to get the chance.’’

Woods’s rise would have been remarkable if it had not been for Groat. Woods, who played only two games for the Tigers’ Toyota Cup side in 2010 due to a hamstring injury, debuted in round one this year, while Groat, who toured England, Wales and France with the Australian Schoolboys squad last year, played his first match midway through the season. Neither have looked back ever since, which is what no front-rower wants to do.

‘‘This time last year I was watching the game at home,’’ Woods said.

‘‘I just couldn’t get on the field last year, with my hamstring. It’s just good to see the coach show a lot of faith in me this year. In the pre-season I trained hard - I only dreamed of playing three to five first-grade games this year, and I ended up playing 23 or something. It’s unbelievable.’’

While Bryce Gibbs and Keith Galloway will be the Tigers’ starters against the Warriors in the first semi-final tomorrow night, Woods and Groat will add size and mongrel off the interchange. Tigers coach Tim Sheens identified the pair some time ago, but even he didn’t foresee them playing the role they have this year.

‘‘Neither of them expected to be in first grade and I didn’t expect them to be, particularly, but that’s the way it worked out,’’ Sheens said. ''I thought they might have got a few games.

I think they’ve been very good for us. They’ve got young legs, and they’ve added to our go-forward in particular with big Keith Galloway, and with Gibbsy’s determination in defence, that rubs off on them as well. I think the four of them have done a good job for the team, and have been a big part in how we’ve gone this year. Our centre’s been pretty tight defensively, and our size is much bigger with those two boys in the squad as well.’’

While the Tigers have bristled at any suggestion their forward pack is on the small size, there can be no doubt that the pair - Woods at 194cm and 112kg, Groat 190cm and 110kg - have added some mass to the middle.

And while Gibbs and Andrew Fifita were seen as expendable, both moving on to Cronulla next year - which caused some pain for the club - Groat and Woods were not.

The pair were part of the jigsaw puzzle that led to the likes of Gibbs and Fifita leaving.

‘‘I picked the two boys to be the two that go on with it next year and I think they’ve shown already this year that they will,’’ Sheens said.

Forget about this time next year for a moment.

There’s the small matter, for these not-so-small men, of this time this year to think about.

I wonder if Woods could be a smokey for the Australian 4 nations squad ???

@happy tiger:

I wonder if Woods could be a smokey for the Australian 4 nations squad ???

There is a bit of an opening in the front row, and they love a bolter for the end of year squad, Id be surprised, but it is possible. I think we’d have to win the comp for it to happen.

I just hope we get someone in! you’d think they’ll take Farrah as 2nd hooker, Lawrence is a hope, we might sneak in a bolter, maybe Tim Moltzen, that’d get the forum going!

Hopefully we are not putting too much pressure on these kids. I’m surprised Timbo didn’t keep them away from the media this week, especially young Manchild Groat. It would be a surreal experience for a young bushie like himself

After that inaugural year, it seems like the Tigers have always struggled with size and aggression in the forward pack.

And it seems like every year there’s a new promising young forward ready to burst into first grade and give the Tigers forward pack that extra bit of size and impact. But then they never really kick on after their initial promise.

Willie Manu, Gray Viane, Bronson Harrison (who did eventually reach his potential at the Raiders), Sam Moa, Daine Laurie, Andre Fafita.

The junior forwards that have kicked on and cemented first grade spots have tended to be more of the toiler or back row type; Liam Fulton, Chris Heighington, Bryce Gibbs, etc.

Yet somehow, it looks like the Tigers have managed to uncover not one but two huge front rowers with impact and work-rate. And, it looks like they can be more than one season wonders but actually become long term bookends for our forward pack.

It’s very exciting.

@Alf Duguid:

Hopefully we are not putting too much pressure on these kids. I’m surprised Timbo didn’t keep them away from the media this week, especially young Manchild Groat. It would be a surreal experience for a young bushie like himself

Me too Alf, but reading the other piece on Woods it’s obvious there’s a fair amount of mentoring going on from the other senior forwards. Woods seems pretty mature for a young bloke especially when talking about helping Groat!

And I think we should remember that Sheens is pretty quick to pull the shutters down when he feels it’s required.

And Colonel, these two young blokes are happy to do the ‘one percenters’ at training, not exactly a trait amongst the other shining lights you mention…

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