Of all the players that will take the field at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday, April 6 against the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles, perhaps none will be more excited Aaron Woods.
Having grown up in Leichhardt, the towering prop played his junior football with Leichhardt Juniors before he started to make a name for himself in the Australian Schoolboys and Wests Tigers NYC squads. And while much has changed between when he first walked out at Leichhardt and when he’ll take the field on Sunday for his 68th first-grade game, the 23-year-old is still as excited as ever to play at his beloved Leichhardt Oval.
“2040’s the hometown,” he says with a laugh. “I love it.”
“As a team, we’re going all right on the field. We’re doing a bit better than how people thought we’d be going at the moment, so we should get a big crowd.
“And a packed house at Leichhardt — it doesn’t get any better than that”.
Having recently come back from a disappointing 42-12 loss to the New Zealand Warriors in front of a strong crowd at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, Woods knows firsthand just how important it is to have a strong home crowd behind the team.
“It’s a massive boost when there’s a big crowd there," said Woods.
“I walk out and I get goosebumbs. I see all my mates on the hill and the ones out there heckling me a bit,” he laughs. “I love that. It really gets you going and gives you a second wind. I suppose the adrenaline of playing in front of your mates and a big crowd cheering you on gives you the energy for an extra 10 minutes on the field.”
Woods’ absence from the Wests Tigers’ squad was easily seen throughout last season as the club struggled for consistency going forward, and it’s no surprise that his return to form has seen a much-improved performance from the Club’s pack.
Throw in strong off-season recruits such as Martin Taupau, Cory Paterson and James Gavet plus the growth of players like Ava Seumanufagai and Sauaso Sue, and suddenly, the Wests Tigers pack resemble a far different prospect from what they did last season.
And that’s made the entire team a different prospect to handle as well.