WESTS Tigers coach Tim Sheens believes James Tedesco is a future NRL fullback.
Whether the future is now will depend on trial form, starting with Saturday night’s game against Parramatta on the NSW central coast.
Tedesco, a star in the Tigers’ Toyota Cup side last year, has been named in the No 1 jersey for the match against the Eels but Sheens has eased pressure on the teenager, warning it is too early to suggest he will open the season at fullback.
The Tigers have options, including Joel Reddy, Mitch Brown and Tim Moltzen, although the last has been named to play halfback against the Eels. Nevertheless, Tedesco has an early chance to stake his claim for the position against the Tigers’ western Sydney rivals.“He has not played a first-grade game so it’s a bit early to be talking about him to any great degree,” Sheens said.
"He is a future fullback. Whether or not that happens will depend on his form this year.
"He’s got some ability, there’s no doubt about that. I think everyone who has seen him play would say that. The potential is there but we need to handle it carefully.
“The kid has trained at fullback most of the pre-season and certainly, from my point of view, talent-wise, he can handle it.”
Tedesco turned 19 only last month but his rise has been rapid. He started last year with Western Suburbs SG Ball side but won a call-up to the Toyota Cup and stayed there the rest of the year.
“All it is is giving him an early opportunity, which he has earned through pre-season training,” Sheens said.
"We will be looking at other options. I have spoken to him about that. I have told him not to expect too much. If it happens, it happens. It’s a long season, with the little experience he has had, to be asked to carry the team (from fullback).
“It’s a big responsibility back there. The pressure is on you all the time; you have to do a lot of talking. There’s a whole lot of things that come with fullback besides scoring a try and running the ball back.”
Sheens has experience at handling teenagers with big reputations. He handed Laurie Daley his first-grade debut as a teenager and coached against Brad Fittler when the former Penrith and Sydney Roosters star arrived on the scene.
Meanwhile, England captain James Graham will make his first appearance for Canterbury at Belmore on Sunday night when the Bulldogs play the Roosters.