Ballin eyes off Tigers' No.9 jumper
Veteran hooker Matt Ballin has admitted he has eyes on the Wests Tigers' No.9 jumper ahead of his club debut on Saturday afternoon against the Knights.
Ballin said it was only natural for him to vie for the club's top hooker billing after nine NRL seasons at the Sea Eagles but was ultimately happy to do what's best for the Tigers.
With Robbie Farah (concussion) unavailable to face the Knights, Ballin has been named on the bench for the Tigers just one Intrust Super Premiership game back from a knee injury following an almost nine-month lay-off.
"I wouldn't have come to the Wests Tigers if I didn't want to play hooker. Robbie and I both understand that. There's no issue with both of us playing. I don't care if he starts and I'm pretty sure he doesn't care if I start," Ballin said.
"We've both played a lot of footy, we're mature guys and we understand the situation so having us both in the team would be effective. If the coach doesn't think that, then I'll play reserve grade – I don't mind. I'm just really enjoying myself at the moment."
"We're a different style of player but I think having us both there we can learn off each other and be effective in that way," Ballin added.
"We're both guys who love challenges and we're looking at it in that way, we're learning new things and trying to make things better."
Ballin even alluded to the fact that there's no reason why he, Farah and part-time rake Dene Halatau couldn't be on the paddock commanding the middle third at the same time.
"The way the game is these days as it opens up and the big boys get tired, there's no reason why Robbie, Dene and I play around the middle of the field," he said.
"We're all good workers and we can all play so I think that could prove to be a real string to our bow. I honestly don't care where I play though. If I play lock or hooker, it couldn't bother me."
Ballin has been buoyed by the positives of his time with the Tigers so far even though he's yet to spend much time with his teammates in training.
Despite the 32-year-old spending the best part of the past nine months rehabbing his previously ruptured ACL, Ballin is now ready to nut out plenty of combinations within the Tigers' predominantly young squad.
"This week the combination with the halves and the forwards has been great for me. I try and talk a lot, I'm a pretty big talker on the field and I find that's a really effective way to get to know people and their styles," Ballin said.
"I was at Manly for 12 years so I knew everyone's style there. You know when to pass early or when you can hold it up a bit or whatever. We have been on the field practising those things and learning about one another which has been really great."