I haven't seen better: Potter
It's taken them almost 18 months, but the Wests Tigers are growing right in front of Mick Potter's very eyes.
The second-year mentor had barely taken his seat in the coach's box when fullback James Tedesco's season ended on the first tackle of the Saturday's clash with Canberra.
News of a 10 to 12-week layoff for his rising star had just come through when another strike weapon – centre Tim Simona – had his night ended with a sickening head clash with Raiders three-quarter Jack Wighton.
And from there it only got worse.
Winger David Nofoaluma came off early in the second half with a knee complaint and then prop Suaso Sue was running around with his arm dangling around like a broken Christmas ornament.
But, with the Raiders staying within a converted try of his team all night, Potter watched as his side overcame adversity after adversity.
"The team, I think, they nearly want to die for one another to try and grind the win out. And today, the character they showed, I don't think I've seen better," he said post-game.
"Given the adversity we copped – I know the other team had some as well – but ours was probably from five seconds into the game [when] we lost our first player."
And it was a pretty big player to lose. Concord was a sullen place when word broke through that their prodigious fullback would leave for the nation's capital. And now they were going to see what it was like without Tedesco – for the rest of the year at least.
"He was looking forward to tonight's game. He chased that kick hard. It was a great tackle, straight off the kickoff," skipper Robbie Farah said.
"To reel away from that with a really nasty knee injury, he was obviously pretty shattered. I think one half was the pain he was in, the other half he knew he was in trouble."
And so was his team. Halfway through the first half, Simona had gone. And then minutes into the second, Nofoaluma and Sue joined him. Or so we all thought.
Nofoaluma, who had scored two tries in the opening half, feared the worst when he felt his knee go bang on a standard hit-up, but was able to return later in the contest.
"It scared him. It ripped his strapping, so I'm not sure if there was a little hyperextension there," Potter said.
"[But] he got his knee re-strapped and was good to go, so that was a real pleasing thing for us that we could bring one of our wingers back on.
"That was one of the little differences that made for us at the back end of the game, that he was available to help us out, because we were really struggling there with our edges."
But while Nofoaluma had the breather on the edges, Sue braved on for almost the entire half after coming off second best in a tackle – an effort that didn't go unnoticed by his skipper.
"Jesse Sue played busted the whole second half. I don't know what he's done, he might have a fracture or something. For him to stay out there, it's as gutsy as they get," Farah said.
"... When I ask the boys to respond under pressure, they're giving me everything they've got. As a captain, that's all you can ask for. The effort's there."
But the real turning point was the five-minute period where, with the team desperately down on troops, the home side desperately defended six straight sets on their own line.
"That won us the game. I said that to the boys at the time. If we hold them out here, we'll win the game," Farah said. "That's what you need to do. That's what the good sides do. Considering we had guys out of position all over the place, to defend our line like that was very pleasing."
Call it growing pains. Call it a rite of passage. Whatever it is, Potter hadn't seen it before.
"I think they've shown some signs of that and willingness to do more than you would expect," he said.
"[But] I think tonight was the pinnacle of how to win a game under adversity. I think our leaders led and all the other blokes followed."