In the Marshall mould...

An off-season filled with more than the usual amount of change is behind the terrific form of exciting Wests Tigers game-breaker Tim Moltzen, who is aiming to continue the fine tradition of talented custodians who donned the orange and black… and white.<br><br>It started in October when the Terrigal junior packed up and moved in with superstar Benji Marshall, continued when he started producing great numbers in the gym and peaked when he, as assistant coach Peter Gentle describes, “finally opened his ears”.<br><br>And the kid who famously filled Benji Marshall’s no.6 jersey at the start of last year is now fulfilling the task of replacing another legend of the young joint-venture club.<br><br>To assist, the normally carefree Moltzen overhauled his approach to training and football – and it all started at home where he was taken under the wing of the New Zealand captain.<br><br>“I moved in at the start of the off-season, while ‘Bags’ (Marshall) was away (on World Cup duties),” Moltzen says. “I’m still living there and we’ve actually just picked up another recruit because Taniela Tuiaki has just moved in.<br><br>“I think you could say that the house move helped me with my off-season.<br><br>“It made me feel more comfortable… it’s not that I wasn’t accepted in the first place, but I just felt a lot more comfortable around everyone and I really enjoyed my off-season.”<br><br>Whatever the reason, Tim Sheens and his support staff saw&nbsp; a different Moltzen&nbsp; when they assembled their ’09 playing roster. The Moltzen who puts in extra time at the gym, scolds himself when he makes a mistake at training and then sits down in front of the NRL Stats computer at Concord and watches hours of video to prepare for the week ahead.<br><br>“We picked it during the off-season, there was a new Timmy Moltzen who turned up ready to train,” Gentle adds. “It was a real hungry ‘I want to play first grade’ Timmy Moltzen – and he’s been rewarded for it.<br><br>“His ability got him to where he was last year and then he realised he had to do a lot more extra work to get to first grade, and he put it in and now I think he’s reaping his rewards.<br><br>“He has really matured, he just realises things about being a professional footballer now. He doesn’t take it for granted anymore.<br><br>“He’s finally opened his ears this year and he’s really listening. Whereas last year he was just happy to be a part of the 20s and get his occasional first grade game.”<br><br>It is a role that coach Tim Sheens has been grooming the young Central Coast product for since he sent him back down to the Toyota Cup in Round 6 last season.<br><br>“We were looking for ‘Moltz’ to get back to first grade and we could see him getting a run in the outside backs,” Gentle, last year’s Toyota Cup coach, explains. “With his height and skill we saw promise at fullback, so we started grooming him (as Brett Hodgson’s replacement) since last year.”<br><br>Moltzen is hesitant to draw the comparison to Hodgson, aware of the reputation the fearless leader has at Concord – but the similarity in style is obvious. It is the reason Moltzen has made such an&nbsp; instant impact&nbsp; in his role at the back – which started with a hat-trick of tries in a trial match against Shellharbour and has continued with five tries, four line-breaks and three try assists in seven games.<br><br>“I think I can relate to ‘Hodgo’ and his style because he is more of a ball player as well at the back, like I am,” Moltzen notes.<br><br>“I spoke to Hodgo a fair bit, he’s one of the more respected players to have played rugby league. He helped me with my game with a few little pointers here and there.<br><br>“That’s something I want to keep working on and not let slip out of my game, it’s sort of handy to have a third playmaker in the team – or fourth in our case as we’ve got Farah, Johnny (Morris) and Bags.<br><br>“If I can slip in and help out here or there, it doesn’t hurt I suppose.”<br><br>At just 20 years of age, Moltzen is far too young to remember the rivalries Wests and Balmain shared with South Sydney; he doesn’t know anyone who saw Balmain edge South Sydney 11-2 in the “lay down” Grand Final at the SCG in 1969 and he’s far more comfortable under the high ball than he is in a league history quiz.<br><br>But he can appreciate that since 1908 some special players have slotted into fullback for the joint-venture’s respective clubs: Keith Barnes, Frank McMillan, Tim Brasher, Garry Jack and of course the mightiest of the modern era, Hodgson.<br><br>“To be honest, I have never really thought about (the history of the jersey), but they were world-class players,” Moltzen admits.<br><br>“They proved themselves in the no.1 jersey over long periods of time – hopefully I can do the same and just prove that I am worthy of pulling it on this year.”