It’s hard to get one’s head around the fact that when the Wests Tigers run out on to the field at Leichhardt Oval this Sunday to take on the Newcastle Knights there will be just a handful of people in the stands watching.
The NRL has decreed that round two will be played behind closed doors to conform with the government’s policy of having fewer than 500 people at such events due to the coronavirus situation.
But the show must go on, at least for round two, and there will be vital premiership points on offer.
Michael Maguire’s team already has two points in the bank after their 24-14 win over St George Illawarra at Wollongong last Sunday evening.
For that Maguire can pretty much thank the ageless Benji Marshall, who put on a master class to ensure the Tigers started the season on a winning note.
Marshall, who is also captaining the side, was just too good and Wests fans will be praying he can keep it going all season.
He will again be the go to man from 4pm on Sunday against the resurgent Knights, who also started the 2020 season with a strong performance and victory over the Warriors.
Maguire has named a near identical side for this week’s game with Josh Reynolds to again partner Marshall in the halves following the calf injury to Luke Brooks that will keep him out for about four weeks.
Despite a couple of howlers against the Dragons, Corey Thompson retains his spot at fullback with Adam Doueihi and Joey Leilua in the centres.
The only change to the side as a whole is the inclusion of Paul Momirovski in jersey 15 on the bench as he returns from a knee injury suffered in the Perth Nines.
Momirovski takes the place of Michael Chee Kam on the bench this week, with the Samoan international dropping back to the reserves.
Wests Tigers will head in to Sunday’s game with a good recent record against the Newcastle Knights, having won five of the past six matchups between the two.
As is customary, two sides will once again play off for the Allan McMahon Shield.
McMahon was a long time player and captain of the Balmain Tigers
between the 1970s and 80s, and was the first ever coach of the Knights in 1988.
WESTS TIGERS – ROUND 2
1. Corey Thompson
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Joseph Leilua
4. Adam Doueihi
5. Robert Jennings
6. Benji Marshall (captain.)
7. Josh Reynolds
8. Josh Aloiai
9. Billy Walters
10. Alex Twal
11. Luke Garner
12. Luciano Leilua
13. Elijah Taylor
14. Thomas Mikaele
15. Paul Momirovski
16. Zane Musgrove
17. Chris Lawrence
18. Michael Chee Kam
19. Oliver Clark
20. Matt Eisenhuth
21. Tommy Talau