Wests Tigers prop Martin Taupau has made a big impression since moving from the Bulldogs over the summer. Copyright: NRL Photos/Grant Trouville. Credit: NRL Photos/Grant Trouville. Copyright: NRL Photos/Grant Trouville.
Oh, them's fighting words.
Ahead of their first game at Leichhardt in 2014, Wests Tigers enforcer Martin Taupau has laid out a shredded welcome mat for premiership heavyweights Manly declaring: We're not scared of you.
Just one week after an under-strength Sea Eagles outfit knocked over defending premiers the Roosters on their own turf, a packed Leichhardt Oval hill awaits a battle-tested side almost everybody rates as the hottest in the competition.
Everybody but Taupau.
"Red hot?" he rhetorically asked on Thursday. "Most people say they're intimidating. There's nothing that worries us as a forward pack, especially with our bench as well. We're not going to take a backward step.
"We're not scared of anyone, especially with James Gavet and Ava Seumanafagai. We're going to stand up [to] big Jason King. We stepped up to the Burgess brothers, we'll do the same thing with Manly."
Taupau was referring to his side's stunning upset victory over South Sydney a fortnight ago when his fellow big men surprised, then ran roughshod, over the Rabbitohs' famed forward pack.
Ironically, it was veteran Manly prop Jason King and his confrontational approach to the Burgess boys the week prior that inspired the Tigers to an epic 25-16 win.
Taupau's teammate, Aaron Woods, said that despite growing up in the inner city, he was a big fan of King growing up.
"Kingy's been around for quite a while. I was a Manly supporter when I grew up so I watched him a lot, he's one of their forward leaders," he said. "Recently he's been injured a lot so to have him back it's a massive boost for them. We've got to get on top of him as soon as he gets on the field."
Tigers players said they expect Manly linchpin Glenn Stewart to play despite concerns over his recovery from the head knock he received against the Roosters last Friday night.
The off-contract lock was named to play by Geoff Toovey on Tuesday night, as was the Tigers pair Liam Fulton and Tim Simona, both of whom missed last week's loss to the Warriors due to concussion.
In what has become a hot topic since the new guidelines were set by the NRL this year, it was the second game Fulton had missed due to concussion. Fullback James Tedesco and back-rower Cory Paterson also failed to finish the game in Wellington because of a head injury.
Woods said games needed a designated doctor to make in-game calls, ensuring fair policy for all teams.
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"I think we should just get a neutral doctor at the time. I suppose if it's one of your gun players, you're not really going to take them off in a diehard situation, are you? I think we should just get a doctor that's neutral and they can make the call during the game," he said.
Forward Adam Blair said that while the club's conservative attitude to concussion might cost them some games – the Tigers struggled without Tedesco last week – it was the correct approach.
"[Fulton] has had a serious run with a few of those things. I think our club's doing the right thing by player welfare and looking after our boys, especially Liam," he said.
"They're really looking after those head knocks and I think that's the right thing by our club by doing those things. Sometimes it's going to hurt us but I think at the end of the day, looking after our players is the main thing for our club."