Friday Frenzy: Hannant wary of Tigers

Learoyd-Lahrs goes in to bat for his coach, Kearney lets it out behind closed doors and Hannant expects a fired-up Tigers on Friday night.

WESTS WATCH: Beware the wounded Tiger. That's the message from Brisbane's representative prop Ben Hannant, who isn't reading too much into the fact that Wests Tigers have made fewer running metres than any other side in 2012.

"I think it will be a really tricky game because when a side is struggling and the papers in Sydney have been bagging them, they always come out firing," Hannant told NRL.com.

"I'm sure a rocket has been thrown at them all week that it's not good enough. I know myself that the best way to get out of a tough patch is to just rip in and get physical and that's what we're expecting from them. They've got their captain (Robbie Farah) back and Keith Galloway is back, so that's pretty big for them."

Hannant said getting on top early was the key for the high-flying Broncos in tonight's clash.

"I think the first 20 minutes will be crucial," he said. "If we can get on top of them in the first 20 their heads might go down and they'll think 'Not again, how do we get ourselves out of this?'

"I still don't think we've put in a full 80-minute performance yet so hopefully we can do that this week."

BENNETT v KEARNEY: There is a hidden side to Stephen Kearney, he says, when it is suggested that he never seems flustered by the hard times Parramatta have fallen on of late.

"You need to see me in the office when I shut the door," he laughs. "No, the past four or five weeks have been a real challenge for our whole footy club. It's a challenging time and I'm sure there will be times in the future that will be challenging for us too, but my focus is not on myself. It's on trying to work out ways forward for this footy club. 

"I can't do that if I'm not focused on what I've got to do. That's my primary concern."

The Eels and Kearney both took a huge step towards redemption last week when they upset premiers Manly to record their first win of 2012, but the task doesn't get any easier this week when they travel to Newcastle to face Wayne Bennett's Knights.

It is a battle with plenty of history behind it – not least of all because of their 2001 grand final clash – and sees the Parramatta coach come up against the man that worked as his mentor during New Zealand's successful World Cup campaign back in 2008. 

Asked about the influence Bennett has had on his own career, Kearney told NRL.com that the Newcastle coach had played a significant role in helping him deal with the traumas of the past 12 months.

"I have learnt a great deal from Wayne – both he and Craig [Bellamy]," Kearney said. “I can tell you that the last 12 or 14 months have been a real steep learning curve. The time I had with those guys has certainly helped me with the experiences that I've had.

"I haven't spoken to Wayne in a while but I do keep in touch with him. They’re obviously both good people to have as mentors, if you like."

Kearney said he was under no illusions as to what the Eels could expect from Newcastle on Sunday.

"I think Wayne has been around long enough that you know what you're up against when you play his footy teams," he said. "But whether it be Wayne Bennett's side or any NRL side at the moment, it's a ruthless competition. There are no easy games. We travel up to Newcastle who have had a couple of losses too. I know from being in camp with Wayne that he is a very determined person too so it makes for a great challenge for us.

"Our focus, as it was last week, is that we get our own game right – and that's huge for us."

BACK IN GEAR: Dane Nielsen has reverted to wearing headgear this season, but according to the Melbourne centre the change of adornment is simply a return to his roots. 

"I used to wear it as a kid right up until under-20s so it doesn't feel uncomfortable at all. It feels fine," he explained.

"I've always copped lots of knocks and there is nothing worse than getting a head knock when you're playing so I thought I'd give it a go and it's working so far so I'll stick with it.

"It's just something I wanted to try."

LEAVE FURNER ALONE: Sick and tired of speculation over David Furner's future, Canberra prop Tom Learoyd-Lahrs says the under-fire coach is working harder than anyone to turn the club's fortunes around in the face of a crippling injury toll.

"Furnsy is working hard. He is working around the clock to get us ready," Learoyd-Lahrs said. "One of the hardest things with our injury toll is trying to pick a team and picking blokes in positions – tinkering with combinations. 

"He's got a big job at the moment so I don't think his job should be speculated about. It shouldn't even come into it. Like I said, he is working really hard and we’re all working alongside him to try and get the form on the board. It’s not all his responsibility."

It was suggested before Round 1 that Furner had eight weeks to prove himself this season after a disappointing 2011, and with two wins from five games so far the jury is still out on what his future might hold.

However, there is no doubt his cause hasn't been helped by injuries to key players with the Raiders set to field their 23rd different player against the Warriors this weekend. By comparison, Manly used just 24 players all year on their way to the title last season.

"It doesn't help losing so many big-name players," Learoyd-Lahrs said, pointing to injuries to the likes of Josh Dugan, Brett White, Shaun Fensom and Joel Thompson.

"Obviously myself, Dane Tilse and David Shillington have had niggling injuries to start the season off too which has held us back a bit. We can't use that as an excuse but it hasn't been easy.

"I try not to put too much pressure on myself but I had a pretty bad foot that certainly hampered me for a few games there. It has taken me a few games to get back to fitness. 

"Now that we've lost 'Whitey' I guess it comes down to everyone individually doing their job, sticking to the game plan and being patient. We'll turn the corner, I have no doubt about that."