Tigers and Eels relish Easter bonanza
Players from both Wests Tigers and Eels can barely hide their excitement at the prospect of another Easter Monday clash in front of a massive crowd at ANZ Stadium.
On a day when the Easter Show is in full swing next door, the past two Easter Monday matches between these two western Sydney rivals have attracted huge crowds of 35,000 last year despite poor weather and 50,000 the year before.
Tigers captain Aaron Woods – like teammates Dave Nofoaluma, Tim Simona, Luke Brooks, Ava Seumanufagai – is heading into his third such fixture and was relishing having it as a home game for the first time.
"Yeah I love this one, it's the first time we've had it for a home game too," Woods said.
"A couple of years ago we had 50,000. Hopefully we have good weather, if we have good weather we can get another 30 or 40,000 which would be good."
The fact both sides have won two of their first three games will add plenty of interest for fans.
"Both teams are going pretty good at the moment. These ones are the awesome ones, the public holiday, it's a four o'clock kick-off instead of seven o'clock too which is good, so hopefully there's a lot of people that can go to the Easter Show and come along afterwards," he said.
For the Eels, just Corey Norman, Manu Ma'u and Tim Mannah are prepping for their third Easter fixture against the Tigers and prop Junior Paulo – who misses out on joining them courtesy of a lengthy early-season suspension last year for a dangerous throw on Matt Ballin – is relieved he won't be watching this one from the sidelines.
"I was unfortunate I missed out due to suspension last year. I was at the game, it was a very solid effort from the boys and I think we just missed out losing at the end," he said of the topsy turvy match that saw the Eels run down for a 22-6 loss despite leading for the better part of 70 minutes.
"It's always a tough test going up against the Tigers on an Easter Monday. 4pm on Monday arvo, the atmosphere is always packed so I'm glad to be a part of it this year," Paulo added.
His clubmate Kenny Edwards was a part of the 2014 fixture but sat out all of last year with injury. He has fond memories of his first Easter Monday NRL match.
"I remember my first one a couple of years ago back in 2014, there were 50,000 people," Edwards said.
"I probably didn't realise until half time I was walking into the sheds and looking around and I couldn't see an empty seat which is rare at ANZ. It's a big atmosphere, big game and we can't wait for the challenge this week."
Tigers forward Dene Halatau is also relishing the chance to host the fixture for the first time.
"They're travelling well and it's a big clash for us at ANZ Stadium on Easter Monday, it's our home game this year which is great and no doubt their fans are going to turn up with the way they're going and hopefully we get the Tigers fans to do the same," Halatau said.
"We want to have a really good atmosphere out there and the past few years it's been really good – it's an awesome atmosphere on a Monday and the more Tigers jerseys we see the better it is for us."