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Wests Tigers back-rower Michael Chee Kam.

Most players would be happy to see their coach smiling as the new season approaches but Wests Tigers back-rower Michael Chee Kam admits to feeling nervous when he sees Michael Maguire crack a grin.

"Madge is smiling a lot more than usual," Chee Kam said. "But it's scarier when he's smiling a lot because you don't know what's going on in his head.

"But I think he's starting to set his own roster now and create the team he wants so he can see the progress. We talk about setting higher standards all the time."

Having not played finals since 2011 and finishing ninth in three of the past four seasons, the Tigers were well aware things had to change - from training methods through to their roster and overall attitude.

Chee Kam revealed that their revamped pre-season included being taken out of their comfort zone last month with a trip to Brisbane after their Christmas break.

One of their destinations in the week-long camp was the Story Bridge – the city's most iconic structure overlooking the Brisbane River.

"It was more a bonding trip away to get to know the new boys and how everyone functions," Chee Kam told

"A lot of the boys, including myself, are scared of heights so it was good to be able to face the fears and climb the bridge.

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"Jock Madden was probably the most terrified but ended up doing it. He told us all he needed a nappy to get through it."

Chee Kam is champing at the bit after coming off a breakout 2019 season but he is no guarantee to feature in next week's NRL Nines tournament as he nurses a minor shoulder issue.

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The 27-year-old resumed full contact training last week and will otherwise be available for the Tigers' first trial match against Penrith on February 22.

"It's just a tendon issue that slowly heals so we'll see how it goes this week," Chee Kam said.

"I did it playing for Samoa at the end of last year and it's just taken some time to overcome."

Chee Kam is battling with new recruit and Samoan teammate Luciano Leilua for the back-row spot on the right edge vacated by Ryan Matterson.

"I just want to keep the momentum going on from last year," he said.

"But it's healthy to have the depth we do. I've been here four years now and our goal is to make the finals so if my role remains the same as last season then so be it."

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National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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