Wests Tigers second-row forward Chris Lawrence will play his 200th first grade game on Saturday.

Tigers' tough task in Lawrence's 200th

Taking on the Cowboys in Townsville is no easy feat; just ask the Wests Tigers who have won only four games in North Queensland since their inception in 2000.

The joint venture has avoided the dreaded road trip since 2014 with the Telstra Premiership draw being kind to them in previous years. Their last outing against the Cowboys at the venue resulted in a 58-point flogging – the club's second worst loss in history.

On that night, Mitchell Moses was playing fullback and now-Raiders five-eighth Blake Austin was partnered alongside another ex-Tiger Curtis Sironen in the halves with the side led by former coach Michael Potter. 

Fast forward to this Saturday night and after a mixed week that started with Ivan Cleary announced as the new head coach, reports that Moses, along with James Tedesco and Aaron Woods, are all on the lookout for new clubs leaves Wests Tigers fans with a lot more to think about than casually coming up against arguably the world's best player Johnathan Thurston in his own backyard.

As a result of the ongoing off-field talk at the club, it is no surprise the celebration of Chris Lawrence's 200th Telstra Premiership appearance has been pushed aside by the man himself, who preferred to play down the achievement when asked about it on Wednesday. 

"It's a big milestone for me but personally it doesn't really matter… it's about getting the win after a poor few weeks, but if we get the win I'll celebrate it a bit more," Lawrence said.

"I have huge faith in the boys and it's just about getting confidence back."

Lawrence admitted the uncertainty surrounding the big-name players and their futures at the club was starting to affect the team's performance.

"Like any club when players are off-contract it, at some point, becomes a distraction," he said.

"As soon as they can finalise whatever they are going to do, it's going to be best for the team so we can move forward and play some footy.

"Everything collectively has probably become a distraction but one thing that has been stabilised is the coach so hopefully we can put that to bed and focus on some footy."

Confidence starts with the new coach in Cleary, who took the reigns at Concord for his first training session on Wednesday morning and introduced himself to a number of players who had never met him, including the former Australian international.

"Having a new coach has everyone excited and wanting to impress so it was a good first session and hopefully we can take that out onto the field," Lawrence said.

"He's got a great track record with what he's done with the Warriors and Panthers so a lot of the boys haven't spoken about how he's got a calm head, which he seems to have.

"He's tweaked a few things and said to us he's not going to come in and make major changes straight away until he gets to know all of us and how we play.

"It doesn't happen too often that a new coach comes in this early in a season, so it is hard and that's why he said he would only implement small changes and it's about us buying into that and adapting to it."

 


No club has won the competition from last position after five rounds but Lawrence was quick to point out the Telstra Premiership was all about making history and wasn't prepared to write-off the season despite the distractions to start the year.

"No one remembers what the table was like at the first half of the year, only how it finishes," Lawrence said.

"We have been training well which has been the most disappointing thing about our performances on the weekends, so it's just a matter of stepping up a bit on the field.

"It has nothing to do with the coach, it's on us players and that's the most frustrating thing."