Focused Tigers shrug off rep claims
Wests Tigers players aren't interested in talking about their individual form or impending representative selection, despite some players well and truly banging on the door of higher honours.
Speaking during the week following the side's resilient 21-18 win over a relentlessly attacking but somewhat sloppy Parramatta outfit in front of 50,000 fans at ANZ Stadium on Easter Monday, prop Aaron Woods was full of praise for every forward in his pack – other than himself.
He said bench prop Martin Taupau led well and his contribution was "enormous", and added Ava Seumanufagai lifted well in the absence of James Gavet who played just a handful of minutes due to a hamstring injury.
And while Sitaleki Akauola is "only a skinny thing" he is "just hard, he's all bone, I think he made Chrissy Sandow's day a tough day which is what we wanted. He was enormous, we're very happy with his performance."
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And as for his own form? The burly prop rightly made his State of Origin debut for NSW last year in Game Two and goes into this representative season as an incumbent starting prop for NSW. With his form arguably even better now than it was then he is being spoken of as a potential bolter for the Kangaroos, especially with some of the incumbents such as James Tamou and Andrew Fifita somewhat off their best.
Three of the four NRL forwards who have more than Woods's 1,033 metres in seven games are current Test incumbents in English pair, Rabbitoh Sam Burgess (1,237) and Bulldog James Graham (1,084) and Melbourne and Kiwi prop Jesse Bromwich (1,054), with the other being Bulldogs workhorse Aiden Tolman (1,115).
"I haven't looked into it at all mate," Woods says of his almost certainly imminent Origin participation and potential Test call-up.
"We've been looking at our games, we were lucky enough to get away with that one [against Parramatta] and now we're looking forward to the Titans next week.
"It's just a week-to-week thing with Tigers, I'm just focused on that. If you focus on other things then your head gets out of that space it's supposed to be in... I want to get the boys going forward and if that stuff comes then you get rewarded with it in the long run."
Blockbusting winger Pat Richards has been in outstanding form on his return to the NRL from the Super League and the 31-year-old seems to have had little trouble adapting to the pace of the game – he currently sits well atop the season pointscoring tally with six tries and 29 goals from 33 attempts. His 82 points is currently well clear of Bulldogs sharpshooter Trent Hodkinson on 66 points (heading into Round 8).
Richards credited the way his side was able to tough out a win against the Eels despite a lack of execution, but like Woods, he wasn't getting excited about his own form – even though his goal-kicking prowess was crucial in his side overcoming the Eels despite scoring one try fewer than their opposition.
"It's just my role. I'm happy with how I'm hitting them at the moment so I'll keep working hard at training and hopefully keep knocking them over," he told NRL.com.
"I'm just happy with my contribution and just doing my role, that's obviously kicking goals and scoring points. All the other guys out there doing the tough stuff, they don't really get recognised."
He said the side's energetic young forward pack had been the cornerstone of the team's early successes.
"There's no doubt forwards win you games. They're playing their role and we're playing on the front foot a lot so it's helping us guys out wide to get opportunities to score points," he said.
And while the ruck is noticeably faster he said it's not just the players returning from Super League having to adapt.
"The ruck is definitely a lot faster but the boys said that even from playing here last year. It's something everyone has to get used to, not just the guys coming back from Super League but we're getting used to it. We're enjoying the style of play that we're playing as well," he said.
And of talk his powerful running game and precision goal kicking has his name being thrown around, quite genuinely, in Origin discussions?
"It's obviously nice to hear those things but I've got to block all that out and play footy. We're just enjoying the ride at the moment – there were 50,000 people out there [at ANZ Stadium for the Parramatta game], we've got a young side there that are finding ways to win."