Tigers forward Adam Blair believes the side is still capable of attacking flair despite the departure of Benji Marshall. Copyright Grant Trouville/NRL Photos. Credit: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos. Copyright: Grant Trouville/NRL Photos.
They were once the NRL's great entertainers, a guaranteed box office smash that could prompt expressions of wide-eyed wonderment from even the most casual of rugby league fans.
But with premier attraction Benji Marshall gone, it wouldn't surprise if coach Mick Potter implanted a more conservative playing style now that 18-year-old understudy Luke Brooks has been declared ready for the spotlight.
Not so, according to second-rower Adam Blair, who believes Brooks, veteran Braith Anasta and back-ups Blake Austin and Mitchell Moses boast more than enough flamboyance between them to keep Tigers fans on their toes on that old Leichhardt hill.
What they don't have though – with the exception of the near-retired Anasta
– is experience. In other words: there'll still be plenty of sizzle, but be ready for the occasional fizzle.
"Of course it'll be a new style," Blair told NRL.com.
"Especially with the halves we've got, they like to run the ball a lot. And they're strong too so it's good we've got those boys in there [now].
"But they're young kids. They've got some learning to do but they've started off well [in the trials]."
The biggest difference, Blair points out, is the fresh and direct route Brooks has given the team over summer. He won't mention Marshall's willingness to skip across-field in search of that magic pass –the type we fawned over time after time – but this year it's different.
"I'm only in the middle but our halves are going straight to the line and taking on the opposition," he continued. "When your halves are going to the line and playing at them, it not only helps them more, but it gives your back-rowers more options.
"We've missed that a bit [last year]. But I think they've stood up. Especially for the young kids, it gives them some confidence going into the season."
Disregarding the shellacking their NSW Cup side received from Parramatta in Alice Springs, defence was a feature of the Tigers' other two trial wins – a 32-8 landslide over Penrith in Camden and a 28-22 victory over Cronulla.
Blair said the team's defensive displays would give further confidence to the team's burgeoning talent base that will be heavily relied upon to lift them up the ladder this year.
"This year and during pre-season [defence] has been our main focus," he said. "Every team needs to defend well. And if you're defending well, you can attack really well. Especially for us, our main focus in the pre-season has been our defence and it's showed."