Wests Tigers players and coach Jason Taylor have praised the efforts of evergreen winger Pat Richards, whose late spree of one try, two try assists and three goals helped the side surge home over the top of Parramatta 22-6 on Easter Monday.
Trailing 6-4 with around 10 minutes to go, Richards produced a stunning sideline run and kick to set up James Tedesco to put the side in front. He scored one of his own – which he converted twice for an eight-point try courtesy of a swinging arm from Will Hopoate – before producing an almost-as-remarkable kick to set up Luke Brooks to seal the win.
It was a fine way to celebrate his 100th NRL game – he played 37 for Parramatta between 2000-03 before helping the Tigers to a maiden premiership in 2005 after joining in 2004, finishing with 77 games before heading to Wigan. There he established himself as one of the big-name club's best players, winning the Man of Steel awards for the competition's best player in a premiership-winning 2010 season, adding a second trophy in his last game for the club in the 2013 final.
The man himself humbly deflected praise after the win over Parramatta but his teammates were more forthcoming.
"I'm just enjoying my part and my role in the side," Richards said.
"It was a tough old slog out there at times and we hung in there and ended up getting away with it so it's a credit to the boys working hard for 80 minutes."
Of the first try assist, he said he simply tried to get a boot to it and hope for the best.
"To Teddy's credit, you get those tries if you work hard and he kept moving and he's a good player so it was nice to get the try."
Captain Robbie Farah said Richards would go down as one of the best players in history for Wigan.
"If he had stayed here [in the NRL] there's no doubt he would have achieved a lot in our game here but he went over there and he was the Man of Steel, won grand finals, so he'll go down as one of the best players in history for Wigan... the time was right for him to come back and he's been going great for us."
Tigers coach Jason Taylor, who played alongside Richards at Parramatta in 2001, said he wasn't surprised to see Richards winning games from the wing at the age of 33.
"I'm not surprised because he's always been a really professional guy. That's the key to what he does. He's great to have around the place because his attitude towards professionalism is first class and he's a great example for the guys."
Fullback James Tedesco, the beneficiary of Richards' skill in his 70th-minute four-pointer, also praised the example Richards set the younger players.
"He's the man Patty! We probably missed him last week [in a one-point loss to Canterbury] to kick us a field goal.
"He was awesome [against Parramatta], 100th game, he could play another three years I reckon. He set up tries, scored tries and kicked goals.
"He did everything for us, he's awesome, he's a great guy to have around the club and a really good mentor for us young guys coming through."
Video courtesy of WestsTigers.com.au