Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter has hailed a huge effort from his understrength charges to overcome a dangerous Eels outfit 21-18 at ANZ Stadium
on Easter Monday despite missing stars Robbie Farah, James Tedesco and Liam Fulton.
With Tedesco still a few weeks away from returning from an ankle injury suffered at Leichhardt Oval against Manly in Round 5, and Farah spending the first of his estimated six weeks on the sidelines due to a dislocated elbow, the club then lost Fulton before kick off with a shoulder injury, bringing Blake Austin in for his second game for the club.
"Winning without Robbie and Tedesco at the back, and without Liam Fulton as well who's a big part of our culture, winning without those guys I thought was above and beyond," Potter said.
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"The confidence the young guys would have had out of getting that result is going to stand us in good stead for later in the year when it does get tight and tough again."
He said the team was far from its best in terms of executing plays and its defence but "they showed the character and the grit that you want out of a team that is just so willing to do anything they can to win."
Stand-in skipper Braith Anasta said the new-look outfit is a different team to the one that finished 15th in 2013.
"We've come a long way in the last 12 months, there's no doubt. Missing Farah, Fults and Tedesco, who are three key players in our team, and we didn't play our best tonight," he said.
"But to get out and win that game, under I thought a lot of adversity there – they were all over us – just shows the courage of the team.
"We've got a lot of winners you know, they're young kids but they've come through Holden Cup and they've won premierships and they know how to win and I think that showed tonight. The fans should be very excited about the players that are coming through at the club, I know I am.
"It's great for the whole place. It's good for me – obviously I'm coming to the end and it gives me a new lease on life, motivates me every day, looking at the young blokes and marvelling at how good they are. It's definitely been really good for me this year."
Anasta also paid credit to the huge crowd of 50,668 that turned out, complimenting fans of both clubs for their support.
"It was unreal. When we ran out it was a great feeling, especially for all our young guys, they haven't played in front of a crowd like that before, you could see they were buzzing, they were really excited about it," he said.
"It was good for the game, it was good to see all the Parra fans and Tigers fans get out there and hopefully next week at Leichhardt we can get the same sort of feeling. It was awesome."