Giant Tigers cubs ready to roar off bench to cap impressive debut seasons for club
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.