The Wests Tigers' bad run of luck has continued with a tough draw and Tim Moltzen's pre-season injury. Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
When you've had about as much bad luck as Wests Tigers fans have had in recent years, there's can only be one rule you live by when facing yet another crisis: Expect the worst, hope for the best.
It's a mantra that would've done wonders on Wednesday, as the merger-club were handed the toughest draw of the competition, with repeat games against six of the top eight teams from 2013.
"That's not to say that they're going to be the six of the top eight next year. Things change, and we have to play them," Tigers mentor Mick Potter said.
But the hard blows just keep coming for the second-year coach, who has to be concerned with the playing future of utility Tim Moltzen after he was taken to hospital with what was later diagnosed as a broken patella for which he will undergo surgery.
In scenes reminiscent of the first time he suffered a knee injury - to his ACL - against the Cowboys in 2010, the 25-year-old collapsed during a regular training run without a hand laid on him.
Moltzen suffered another ACL injury to his left knee in Round 7 against the Broncos this year, and had been on the comeback trail ever since.
Like he did for most of last season, coach Mick Potter put on a brave face when he faced the media shortly afterwards.
"We're trying to just keep it low-key to respect the kid's privacy," Potter said. "He's gone through a tough time with injury and it's unfortunate that you guys were here to see it. I think he just needs a little bit of privacy just to get it settled. It's one of those things that happens."
Potter – who was placed under plenty of pressure in a debut season in the NRL ravaged by injuries – was resigned to being without his talented playmaker for between six months and possibly the whole of the 2014 season.
"I'm sure it's a blow to him. He was looking good at training. These things happen, you have to move on," he said.
"But for Tim, he's got a lot of rehab to do."
Incumbent fullback James Tedesco had flashbacks when he heard his teammate scream in agony. The Italian representative had just returned to training this week and was set to vie for the No. 1 jumper with Moltzen, who was also a candidate to replace former housemate Benji Marshall.
"When you see someone on the ground clutching their knee, you always get a bit worried," he said.
"Especially him, he's had two ACL reconstructions already, so I was really worried. We had to call the ambulance because he couldn't move."
Now Potter will be without one of his most experienced playmakers behind Braith Anasta, who played only a handful of games in the halves last season.
Teammate Aaron Woods said was confident his team-mate would comeback from his latest setback.
"He's a tough customer, Moltzy. He know what he's got to do. It'll be hard at first I suppose but once he rips into this rehab, he'll be right. I back him 100 per cent," he said.
"I felt a bit bad at the time when I heard it was Moltz because I knew he was coming back and they said it was the same knee.
"But as a team, we've got to regroup and get back on the bandwagon. We'll help Moltz out as much as we can and he'll help us out by coming to training, happy face and rip into his rehab."