Wests Tigers v Warriors preview
Wests Tigers v New Zealand Warriors
Sunday, 2.00pm (AEST)
This week the Tigers signalled a changing of the guard and potentially the start of a new era, but will that translate into anything different on the field when they tackle the feeble Warriors this Sunday?
Up to their eyeballs in a battle to avoid the wooden spoon, coach Jason Taylor made the decision to tell captain Robbie Farah that he is free to look for a new club next year, one of the biggest calls in the joint venture's history.
In Round 25 they face a Warriors team who are ripe for the taking, heading into the game on a six-match losing streak and without nine frontline players through injury or suspension.
Despite their 40-18 defeat to Cronulla last week the Tigers' 17 is unchanged, with Martin Taupau starting and Dene Halatau shifting back to the bench being the only alteration.
For the Warriors there is one forced change to the side who were destroyed 50-16 by the Cowboys, with Jacob Lillyman out injured for the remainder of the season and Sebastine Ikahihifo coming into the side.
Coach Andrew McFadden has also dropped 21-year-old winger Ken Maumalo in favour of Matt Allwood.
Watch out Tigers: When the Warriors were on last week they were really on, scoring 16 points in 13 minutes as they ran riot in attack. History shows the Cowboys quickly wrestled back momentum and went on to score 50 unanswered points, but the Tigers will need to make sure they don't give them any chances to build confidence.
What happens when you tell your captain and longest-serving current player that he isn't wanted? We will find out on Sunday, but chances are it will have an immediate impact not only on Farah, but also any of his friends at the club who now know their mate almost certainly won’t be lining up with them in 2016.
Watch out Warriors: It is hard to win a game of rugby league when you hardly have the ball. Last week against the Cowboys the Kiwi side finished with just 37% possession, thanks largely to the fact that they coughed up 11 errors. Through the 80 minutes the Warriors also conceded 10 penalties and gave up five goal-line dropouts, allowing their opponents to boss ownership of the Steeden.
While the usual clichés about a 'big intimidating Warriors' pack' will still feature this week, the current reality is a long way from that. With Jacob Lillyman gone the Kiwi side are now left with what is surely the competition's youngest front row rotation. Their most senior front-rower against the Tigers will be Sebastine Ikahihifo (37 games), while Albert Vete (19 games), Charlie Gubb (14 games) and Sam Lisone (17 games) round out the big boppers.
Key Match-Up: Luke Brooks v Tuimoala Lolohea. Two 20-year-old playmakers trying their best to guide out-of-form teams around the park while very much still finding their feet in the NRL. The Tigers' best attacking weapon this year, Brooks has contributed a team-high 15 try assists in 2015. Lolohea meanwhile had his best game last week since shifting into the No.7 jersey, burning the Cowboys with his explosive running game which saw him score and set up a try inside the opening 13 minutes. Both capable of individual brilliance, but it's their ability to lead their respective teams which will matter most at Campbelltown Stadium.
History: Played 24; Wests Tigers 11, Warriors 13. One of the few teams in the competition who the Warriors have a positive winning record against, they have won their past three against the Tigers. Being at home won't give the Tigers too much confidence either, given they have only won five of 10 clashes against the Warriors when playing in Sydney.
What Are The Odds: The Tigers have received nearly twice as much money in comparison to the Warriors, although there have been more individual bets on the Warriors according to Sportsbet. Latest odds at Sportsbet.com.au.
Did You Know: The Warriors' 20th anniversary team as voted by the fans was named this week, and features five current players. Winger Manu Vatuvei, half Shaun Johnson, prop Ben Matulino and captain Simon Mannering were all included in the starting 13, while Jacob Lillyman was named on the interchange bench.
Match Officials: Referee: Gavin Reynolds. Assistant Referee: Chris Sutton. Touch Judges: Russell Turner and Ziggy Przeklasa-Adamski. Video Referees: Shayne Hayne and Luke Phillips.
Televised: Fox Sports - Live from 2.00pm AEST. Sky Sport – Live from 4.00pm NZT.
The Way We See It: Given the x-factor which still sits within these two squads you can expect plenty of points to be scored in this one, and in the end it will probably be won by the team who takes better care of the ball. Critically low on experience, the Warriors have for the last month been one of the Telstra Premiership's worst sides. Tigers to have just enough and win by 10.