With seven matches set to take place within 48 hours this weekend, there’s no doubt that the representative round will attract plenty of headlines and talking points.
From the Aussies’ attempt to bounce back in the winners’ circle and not suffer three straight defeats to the Kiwis since 1953, to the entertaining and enthralling contests that are no doubt set to play out in the Pacific Tests, there’s certainly a lot to look forward to.
And with 14 players selected, that’s perhaps especially the case for Wests Tigers fans.
Take a look at five of the biggest Wests Tigers storylines to watch for throughout the representative weekend, and how they could all respectively play out.
1. James Tedesco moved to the wing
A late inclusion into the City side for Rabbitohs centre Dylan Walker, fullback James Tedesco will appear in a City Origin jersey for the second time in his career, but this time on the wing. Penrith fullback Matt Moylan will wear the No. 1 jersey, moving Tedesco out of position on the wing, where he’ll line up against either Knights winger in James McManus or Akuila Uate.
Obviously the move isn’t ideal for Tedesco — who has been one of the league’s best at the back so far in 2015 — but the Camden junior didn’t appear too worried by the proposition of moving position when asked during the week. “I haven’t played on the wing for about two years now,” said Tedesco. “I’ll just look to get involved early and have a few carries; hopefully I can get involved and not just stand out there. I’m used to playing anywhere in the backs, so I’ll just take this opportunity and do my best to represent City.”
Tedesco, of course, played on the wing at times when he came through the Club’s Holden Cup squad, and even played centre for Italy at the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, but while there’s no doubting his ability to fill in anywhere across the back-line, it will no doubt be intriguing to see how he and Moylan combine on the day.
2. How will the Kiwis use Martin Taupau?
Speaking of positional moves, how the Kiwis plan to use Martin Taupau is another interesting storyline to follow. Taupau’s form throughout the 2014 Four Nations — particularly in the final — was superb, and he seemingly grew into his “crash and bash” role the more the match wore on. However, under new Clun Coach Jason Taylor, that role has slightly changed, with Taupau doing a little bit more work on the edge as he consistently starts at lock forward.
It’ll be interesting to note whether Kiwis Coach Stephen Kearney looks to simply use Taupau in the role that worked so well during the Four Nations, or whether he’ll adopt elements of Taupau’s club role, and potentially bring him on for Simon Mannering, or even Kevin Proctor, and move Mannering to the edge.
3. Lamar Liolevave and Te Maire Martin reunited
Wests Tigers fans will no doubt remember well the combination that Junior Kiwis Lamar Liolevave and Te Maire Martin had going on the left edge in the 2014 NYC season, and even before that when they were at Keebra Park. Yet with Martin playing Holden Cup again in 2015 and Liolevave moving on to NSW Cup and even in the NRL earlier in the year, the close friends are yet to play together this season.
Until now, that is.
Look for Martin to either give Liolevave early ball and back up on the inside, or hit the Marist Saints forward with a short ball close to the line, with the ever-dangerous Watson Heleta — a third Keebra Park product — floating around the back as another danger to watch.
4. Out-of-position fullbacks
Two outside backs, neither of which would list their primary position as fullback, will seemingly the No. 1 jerseys for their respective sides this weekend. Kevin Naiqama (Fiji) and Tim Simona (Samoa), have both played fullback before, with Simona particularly impressive at the back throughout the Four Nations, but the move will no doubt be a big test for both players.
When asked earlier in the week, Naiqama said that he was expecting a “tough, physical match” against the PNG Kumuls, and the same will no doubt go for Simona’s opponent, Tonga, who will field a strong side for their clash on Saturday night. It bodes an intriguing storyline to watch for, with the fullback form of both players worth noting should Tedesco potentially receive another representative call-up down the track.
5. Who is the form prop of the competition?
It’s a question that you could probably narrow down to four candidates so far in 2015, and all four of them will square off in Friday’s blockbuster Trans-Tasman Test. Aaron Woods has been his side’s best in the opening eight rounds of the year, and is being spoken about as one of the best props in the league, and he’ll have a great yardstick alongside him on Friday night in North Queensland Cowboys enforcer Matt Scott. Scott has long been seen as one of the top two front-row forwards in the game, and it’ll be a great challenge and boost at the same time for Woods to feature alongside such a historically dominant forward.
Then there are the Kiwis, who have the Melbourne Storm’s Jesse Bromwich and the New Zealand Warriors’ Ben Matulino as their starting props, who again have been superb in 2015. Of course, one match won’t decide which player is the superior of the four, but having them all line up at the same time at Suncorp Stadium will certainly make for an interesting sub-plot and storyline worth watching out for this weekend.