Head Coach Mick Potter has exclusively revealed to Wests Tigers Members one key inclusion to the side to face Canberra this Saturday at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
Blake Austin will retain his utility role on the bench this week after eight impressive performances that have seen him cross for a total of three tries.
Austin joined the Wests Tigers this season from Penrith and made his debut for the Club in Round 6 against North Queensland – playing every match since.
“Blake’s best attribute is his versatility,” Potter said. “He can play anywhere in the backline, as well as at lock or hooker in the forwards.”
“We have lacked that (versatility) in a couple of games early on where we have had an injury or concussion and we have needed a player that can play various roles for us.
“Blake offers that value and he is an improving young player who ‘up-tempos’ the game when he comes on - he has got great speed and good vision.”
After a week off with the bye, Wests Tigers return to Campbelltown Sports Stadium to face a physical Canberra pack that includes big boppers Dane Tilse, Brett White and David Shillington.
“The Canberra pack are not only big, but they have the ability to offload the ball and create second phase play,” Potter said. “That becomes dangerous when you’ve got the likes of Anthony Milford and Reece Robinson buzzing around.”
“Those guys are very quick and once they are in a bit of space they’re hard to stop; we need to nullify that and stop their go forward.”
It’s an important match for the Wests Tigers side that currently sits in ninth position on for and against, however are equal on competition points with Brisbane (6th), Melbourne (7th) and Parramatta (8th).
It’s something that Potter is wary of and labelled this match as one that they must win with 12 rounds remaining of the regular competition.
“Winning this match will boost our confidence,” Potter said. “It’s one of those games that you don’t want to let slip and it’s a little bit like the Brisbane (Round 11) match – we let that slip, we don’t want to let this one get away from us.”
“We need as many fans there as we can get to give us a boost and push us through.”
With the Raiders losing their past three matches and sitting in 14th place on the ladder, Potter expects the visiting side to do everything possible to record a win and stay in finals contention.
“Canberra was hopeful against the Bulldogs last week and the game just slipped away from them,” Potter said. “This week they are going to be all the more desperate, no one wants to slip out of contention from the top eight.”
“It’s two desperate teams playing in the middle of the year and these two points could be the difference between getting in the eight and not making it.”
Potter will name the full side to face Canberra later this afternoon on weststigers.com.au