Head Coach Mick Potter has revealed one key change exclusively to Wests Tigers Members ahead of Friday’s clash with Manly Warringah at Brookvale Oval.
Bodene Thompson has been ruled out of the Round 18 game through suspension, accepting an early guilty plea for his Grade 1 Dangerous contact charge on Jamie Soward last weekend.
Thompson will be replaced by veteran forward Dene Halatau, who earns his first starting jersey this year and will also bring up a significant milestone – his 200th NRL game.
This game will be the first match this season that Thompson will miss – one of just five players who have played the opening 15 NRL matches.
“Bodene has been doing really well for us this year,” Potter said. “He had a slow start to last season but has certainly been one of our stalwarts in 2014.”
“He has been rock solid on that right hand side and has been playing 80-minutes every week.
“Bodene has had to fill in at centre, lock and sometimes at hooker there for us when we have had injuries.
“He has done an enormous job for us and will be sorely missed, but we have got a ready made replacement in Dene Halatau and again, he can play numerous positions.
“This week Dene’s assignment is to play backrow for us, he won’t let us down and I’m looking forward to seeing him out there.”
Halatau made his debut for Wests Tigers in 2003, winning a premiership in 2005 and playing numerous Test Matches for New Zealand followed by a four-year stint at Canterbury (2010-13).
“Dene’s talk and ability to understand what is required at certain aspects of the game is highly valuable,” Potter said. “That’s experience and he is a no-nonsense player.”
“He can run a good line, he knows what is required to stop the attackers and can understand the shape that they are throwing at him.
“I think the 200-game milestone is a good thing for him personally, there’s not too many other players that get to reach that mark.
“It’s a credit to how professional he has been - given that he is not a man-mountain, his resilience and toughness is there for all to see.”
Mick Potter will name the full Wests Tigers NRL side later this afternoon on weststigers.com.au