Tigers eye big home support against Hayne's Titans
Wests Tigers players, still buoyed by a massive home crowd that helped them get over the line at Leichhardt Oval last week, are hoping for more of the same a Campbelltown when a local product by the name of Jarryd Hayne comes to town.
Leichhardt Oval in Sydney's inner west, just next to Balmain, and Campbelltown Sports Ground in Sydney's greater south-west, are the two spiritual homes of the merged club and the pulsating 14,000-strong home crowd that witnessed the 26-14 win over the Cowboys could be a taste of things to come when the club hosts the impressive Titans on Saturday afternoon.
Many of the headlines will be around Minto boy Jarryd Hayne's first NRL game in Sydney in two years but St Greg's Campbelltown graduate Chris Lawrence is hoping the cheers come loud and strong for the home side.
"I love coming back and playing games here. Hopefully it's a big crowd, it's always a great atmosphere when we get a big crowd here and I love playing here," Lawrence told NRL.com.
"I'm a Wests junior, grew up here, played all my junior footy here so I had plenty of local junior league grand finals here when I was younger. I've got plenty of fond memories from this ground.
"I'm a Saint Greg's boy so I played plenty of school games here too."
Like his teammates, Lawrence was pleased to see prodigal son Hayne return to the code that made him a star and believed would add to Saturday's spectacle.
"It's definitely great for the game. Hopefully just him being in the game can increase the crowd and the atmosphere," Lawrence said.
The back-rower caught some of Hayne's highlights from his comeback game last Sunday (though none of the Tigers players were able to watch it live as it kicked off just two hours before the Leichhardt game).
"I watched it a little bit, I didn't see the whole game but it's no surprise [he did well], he's a great player and a great athlete so it's no surprise it didn't take him long to get back into gear," he said.
Hooker Dene Halatau volunteered the "Hayne back to his roots" sub-plot without even being prompted.
"I've played a number of games here myself now and I love coming out here," Halatau told NRL.com while standing out on the Campbelltown pitch during a Wests Tigers open media session mid-week.
"Saturday afternoon when it's packed is a good feeling; it's our last home game here for the year and hopefully there's a good number here. We've had a pretty good month so hopefully we get a good number of supporters out here. Jarryd Hayne's a local kid as well so no doubt there'll be some people that turn up for him as well," he said.
Like Lawrence, Halatau had had a chance to catch some of Hayne's highlights – including his first tackle in two years, an impressive try-saver at the line against a charging back-rower.
"I saw the tackle that he pulled off on Bodene [Thompson] on the line!" Halatau laughed.
"Bodene was running a really strong good line as he does and Haynesy stopped him a metre out pretty much full stop so obviously that was pretty good.
"He's got that vision, he throws a good cut-out ball and he sweeps out the back not too dissimilar to the way Teddy (Tigers fullback James Tedesco) plays as well. He hits it on the money every time."