NRL: We start with NRL and Wests Tigers kick of their season against the Rabbitohs on Friday.
THE immediate futures of the “Big Four” at the Wests Tigers — James Tedesco, Aaron Woods, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks — will dominate a lot of discussion to start the season.
Not only is there pressure on the club to retain at least three of those players, the Tigers will be sweating on reaching the finals for the first time in six seasons.
The Robbie Farah sideshow can no longer be used as a legitimate excuse. Coach Jason Taylor is also entering his third year and has the support staff he wanted.
They will quickly get an idea if they are in for a long season because they play against premiership heavyweights South Sydney, Penrith, Canberra and Melbourne in the first month.
Hooker Jacob Liddle has plenty of admirers and will get his chance to shine in Farah’s old No.9 jersey, especially if Matty Ballin runs out of time to be fit for the opening rounds.
And big Jamal Idris will also add some much-needed size out wide, provided he rediscovers his love of rugby league.
IT’S A BIG YEAR FOR
James Tedesco. Showed he was made for the State of Origin arena last year, and is set to attract plenty of interest from rival clubs should he take his game to the next level.
Tedesco is a local junior and most weeks provided the spark the Tigers needed.
If he fires the Tigers are entitled to seriously dream about September. A nose and jaw operation, as well as a clean-out of his knee, means Tedesco will be fit and firing come round one. He struggled to breathe because of his nose towards the back end of last season, yet still punched holes in the defensive line for fun.
His on-field chemistry with halves Brooks and Moses is one of the great sights in rugby league.
Jason Taylor. It’s easy to pick on the coach, but JT has had plenty of backing from a patient Wests Tigers board, and must now show good reason why he is worth the long-term investment. He made the tough call to flick Farah, and somehow inspired the players to get within a whisker of what would have been a miracle finals campaign last year.
Taylor has had next to no cash to spend on players because of the horror salary-cap situation at the club — several players still on the books are running around elsewhere — but will rely on one of the youngest and most exciting spines, which includes Moses, Brooks and Liddle.
1 James Tedesco 2 Moses Suli 3 Kevin Naiqama 2 Tim Simona 4 Jamal Idris 5 David Nofoaluma 6 Mitchell Moses 7 Luke Brooks 8 Aaron Woods 9 Matt Ballin 10 Sauaso Sue 11 Josh Aloiai 12 Chris Lawrence 13 Elijah Taylor Interchange: 14 Ava Seumanufagai 15 Jacob Liddle 16 Tim Grant 17 Joel Edwards
INS AND OUTS
INS: Jamal Idris (free agent), Matt McIlwrick (Sharks)
OUTS: Josh Addo-Carr (Storm), Jack Buchanan (Widnes), Josh Drinkwater (released), Asipeli Fine (Bulldogs), Lamar Liolevave (Bulldogs), Billy McConnachie (released), Jesse Parahi (Rugby Sevens), Manaia Cherrington (Sharks), Dene Halatau (retirement), Robbie Farah (Rabbitohs), Curtis Sironen (Sea Eagles), Chance Peni (rugby union)
FULL 2017 DRAW