"Too early" for Tedesco Origin talk: Taylor
Wests Tigers Jason Taylor said it was "too early" to offer up fullback James Tedesco as an Origin candidate, while skipper Robbie Farah simply didn't want to be asked the question.
"I got a man crush on him, so don't ask me," Farah said.
But the reality was Tedesco showed in the space of 20 minutes why he is a Blues player in the making, literally running away with the game for the Tigers between the sixth and 26th minute of the match against the Dragons on Monday night.
Displaying his electrifying speed – and new-found confidence in his injury-prone body – the 22-year-old set up a try each for wingers Kevin Naiqama and Pat Richards, and also scored one himself to blow the Dragons out of the Campbelltown inside half an hour.
"He showed tonight why people have talked about him how they have over the years. Some really classy touches, just really classy. Some things that not many guys can do," beamed coach Jason Taylor after the game.
The fact that Tedesco is on the field right now is a credit to himself. Coming back from knee and ankle injuries suffered last season, Taylor admitted he was unsure whether he would have his prodigious fullback in time for last week's season-opening win over the Titans.
"Right up until Christmas we weren't thinking that he'd be right for Round 1. The big thing was we didn't want to push him, and we were never going to put any pressure on him," Taylor said.
"He was getting a bit frustrated, because he felt that he was ready to do more than he was. But we held him back and held him back.
"But he just kept proving that he could handle whatever else we threw at him and so it wasn't until the 40 minutes that he played until the Cronulla trial, it wasn't until he completed that – that we were 100 per cent that he was going to play. He really picked up in the last few weeks leading into the trials."
Tedesco said he was growing in confidence with each game he comes out of injury-free.
"Especially coming off good games, coming off games where the knee's not sore, and having no troubles during the game. It's really confidence building in myself, just taking it week by week and hopefully stay out there," he said.
"I feel that my body's matured, [I'm] 22 now. Obviously having those injuries in the past was pretty disappointing for me. But yeah I'm feeling strong, the body's feeling fit. No niggles. I don't want to get too ahead of myself but feeling good."
After running for 94 metres last week, Tedesco made 116 against the Dragons on Monday night and is on a long list of NSW fullback contenders who put their hand up on the weekend to fill the sizeable Blue boots previously worn by Jarryd Hayne.
"Obviously there's an opportunity there. But all I can really focus on is playing good footy for the Tigers and see what happens. I'm not really worried about that, but if it comes, it's a goal for me and it'd be awesome. Just to get mentioned is a great honour for me," he said.
However his coach believes talk of Tedesco taking Hayne's place is premature this season.
"Yeah, I think that's too early. It was a really good first half and he showed what he can do, but I think that's a bit too early for where he's at. But down the track, for sure," he said.