Predictably all the talk so far about Sunday’s NRL clash between Wests Tigers and St George Illawarra has centred on the face off between the old bull, Benji Marshall, and the young gun who took his spot, Luke Brooks.
For Benji maybe this match is one he has been dreading since joining the Dragons a few weeks ago after his aborted rugby venture.
He’s an emotional guy anyway, Benji, so he will be wrestling with a lot of demons between now and the 3pm kick off at ANZ Stadium.
But for young Luke Brooks, why should he care about this game more than any other? No reason at all. His star is on the rise, while Marshall’s best days are behind him, unless he makes a damn fool of me on Sunday, but I somehow doubt it.
I have followed Benji’s career since he hopped and jumped and swerved and dummied into our Wests Tigers hearts all those years ago as a skinny little runt. I have also met him once or twice, and I have no hesitation in saying he’s a very good human being.
From that point of view, as a Wests fan, my wish is that Benji has a brilliant game but we take home the vital two premiership points.
And as far as emotional face offs go, it’s more likely to be one between Marshall and Wests skipper Robbie Farah. During their time together some people claimed they didn’t get on but this was rubbish. There was creative friction among them, but a normal level, no different from any other walk of life when two very talented people work on the same team.
On Sunday though, Farah and Marshall will find themselves pitted against each other, something they would have laughed at if someone suggested it would happen down the track.
Robbie is also an emotional person but I expect him to stay more focused than Benji, because he knows the Tigers have a golden opportunity in 2014 to do a repeat of 2005.
OK, yeah, I’m a Wests supporter, and I would say that, but I mean it.
Last Sunday’s performance against the Dogs reminded me so much of how we played in 2005 leading into the finals; the defence scrambled like mad and closed down gaps as big as the Hume Highway.
The Tigers produced such defence all the way to beating the Cowboys in the ’05 grand final, and their playmakers, Brett Hodgson, Benji Marshall, Scott Prince and Robbie Farah – in his first full season in first grade – did the rest.
And that’s how it looked to me on Sunday. The Bulldogs would make a break and look like scoring for all money but for the Tigers scrambling effort nullifying the attack. The Bulldogs scored nothing in the second 40 minutes, the defence from the Tigers was that good.
In attack, Mitchell Moses, Blake Austin, Luke Brooks and Robbie Farah had a field day. Nothing against Austin, but boy oh boy, I can’t wait to see Moses with the number 6 on his back and James ‘‘Tabasco’’ (because he’s hot) Tedesco at fullback next season. No need for silly predictions from me, better judges than me such as Phil Gould are tipping big things for the Tiger cubs in 2015 and beyond.
Let’s hope that the club stops mucking around and extend Mick Potter’s contract. The guy can coach, there’s no doubt about it, he’s just been massively unlucky with injuries last year and this.
But back to the footy, and if Wests can get on top of the Dragons they will take a massive step towards making the finals.
I’m tipping the Wests Tigers to win by 7.