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It goes all the way back to the biblical days - friends go their separate ways and become the best of rivals. And when player movement between clubs is so common, it is bound to create club rivalries when players face up against their former teammates. It’s seen when best of friends Paul Gallen and Greg Bird face off, or when Braith Anasta, Mark O’Meley and Willie Mason faced off against the Bulldogs in Roosters colours.
This Friday night the newest, and probably closest, of these begins when the Wests Tigers take on the Cronulla Sharks. Over the last few years, a number of former Tigers have joined the Sharks ranks, including Beau Ryan, Bryce Gibbs, Chris Heighington, John Morris and Andrew Fifita, while Keith Galloway and Mitch Brown (now at the Bulldogs) have made the reverse trip. In both of the last two off-seasons controversy has surrounded both camps, as reports emerged of Tigers players being ‘forced out’ of the club and having to move down to the Shire.
Amongst all that however, is a bond between the long term Tigers that may never be broken. Benji Marshall and Beau Ryan both revealed they shed tears after Ryan and Heighington decided to leave the joint venture, while best mates Gibbs and Liam Fulton still own a business venture together. Ryan even revealed on Monday that he struggled on Channel 9’s coverage of Wests’ heavy loss to the Bulldogs. "I was commentating their loss (against Canterbury) last week and it was tough to watch from the sidelines," Ryan told The Daily Telegraph. "To be honest, it was hard to commentate because I know how much effort they put in and there's still so many players there that I'll call friends for life."
It is this that creates such a rivalry between these two groups, because as much as they are close, they’ll be out to get one one over each other, particularly after the Tigers’ thrilling win in round one last season. The fact the Sharks have only won once against the joint-venture in the past 10 years makes this an even more interesting affair, as the understrength Tigers aim to get their season back on track.
Everyone will remain friends, but that means nothing when they cross the white line.
When the fulltime whistle is blown however, there is no doubt all former teammates will shake hands, have a laugh and catch up after the game.
Jim Beam Smooth Move of the Week
The experienced Brent Tate taught the Eels a lesson in scrum defence on Saturday night, scoring a crucial try when he broke from lock, ran directly around the scrum and scored untouched as the lock (Jarryd Hayne) and second-rower (Kaysa Pritchard) couldn’t get away quick enough.