The Tigers youth need to step up to cover Farah and Woods. Picture: Mark Evans/dailytelegraph.com.au
Tigers v Panthers
Sunday July 6 – 3:05 PM (AEST)
The Wests Tigers are just outside the Top 4, but need to find more consistency, if they want to avoid sliding down a congested ladder. Last week against the Raiders, they proved against all odds, they can overcome adversity. Losing three players to injury early in the game, the Tigers dug deep and came up with one of the gutsiest wins of the year. For the Penrith Panthers , the penny has finally dropped. The Panthers were the unlikely competition leaders for a while there, but a poor performance against the Warriors last week was the loss everyone was expecting.
There are a number of teams that dread the Origin period. The Tigers are one of them. It means they are without inspirational skipper Robbie Farah, who seems to be their catalyst. Add Aaron Woods, who is also donning the sky blue jumper, and that’s two-thirds of their middle out of the squad. Farah again proved on Saturday he is such an important part of this team. Leading the Tigers tackle count with 38, he was also damaging at the back of the ruck, and controlled the tempo of the game when things weren't going their way. Joel Luani replaces Farah, with Martin Taupau coming in for Woods. Keith Lulia replaces Tim Simona (mouth) in the centres, and Blake Austin starts for James Tedesco, who looks set to miss the rest of the season with yet another knee injury. Dene Halatau, Sitaleki Akauola and Jack Buchanan make up the rest of the bench.
Ivan Cleary was so confident heading into Sunday’s match against the Warriors. The Panthers coach was at the helm of the Warriors for a long time and thought he knew all their tricks. What he got was definitely not what he expected. The Panthers were simply outplayed. When they thought they had the answer, the Warriors would change the question. If the Panthers look to be a mainstay in the Top 8, they need to learn to adapt. James Segeyaro is by far one of Penrith’s best. He continually asks questions of the defence, and can turn nothing into something. Kevin Naiqama has been named to return on the wing, replacing Isaah Yeo. Adam Docker returns to lock, pushing Tyrone Peachey back to the pine, with Bryce Cartwright named as 18th man.
It’s the battle of the west on Sunday. With only two points separating these two, it will be a game which is likely to have a huge bearing on one club's season. The Tigers have a poor record without Farah, but the love of Leichhardt might just get them over the line.