After producing the best season of his career in 2015, Wests Tigers fullback James Tedesco says he’s ready to take his game to another level again in season 2016, having been voted by his teammates into the Club’s leadership group.
In 2015, Tedesco — who chalked up a team-high 17 tries and 14 try-assists — unsurprisingly took out Wests Tigers Player’s Player and Members’ Player of the Year at the Club's Grand Final Luncheon, and finished in the top 10 players for the Dally M of the Year Award.
Topping that, it seems, would be a tall ask for the Camden Rams junior, but with a new-found confidence having being voted in the Club's leadership group alongside Aaron Woods, Robbie Farah, Chris Lawrence, Dene Halatau, Matt Ballin and Sauaso Sue, the 23-year-old Tedesco is determined to take his performances — and Wests Tigers' — to a whole new level in 2016.
“Being in the group has given me a lot of confidence in my own ability,” Tedesco said. “To be recognised among the group in that way is, yeah, really special.
“The boys and JT [Jason Taylor] have told me that when I’m talking, everyone is listening and following whatever I do, so that’s definitely a good feeling to have.
“I don’t really say much. I’m not much of a leader with words, but I just try to do it with my actions. I actually said that to JT after the boys voted me in the leadership group — that I’m not much of a talker — but JT told me that leading with my actions was one of the best ways I could lead people and something that the leadership group needs.
"Being in the leadership group has given me a lot of confidence in my own ability..."
“So I guess I’m just trying to be more vocal and chat a bit more when we need it on the field, but also when we discuss things at training or in team meetings.
“I’m trying to get a word in… but Woodsy [Aaron Woods] just loves talking,” he laughed.
With the talk of representative football already in full swing before a single game has taken place, Tedesco emphasised that his focus remained with Wests Tigers first and foremost.
Having made his representative debut for Italy in 2014 and playing City Origin football in 2013 and again last year, a Blues jumper is seemingly next in line for the talented fullback, who narrowly missed selection in the team last season. And while Tedesco admitted pulling on the Blues jersey was a goal of his for 2016, he knows that his only hope of making the representative side was to be playing his best footy at Club level.
“Of course there’s a personal goal this year to play rep footy,” Tedesco said, “but to do that, I’m going to have to continue and improve my form from what it was last year.
“I think I’ll need to do that too in order to get us in to the top eight.
“For me personally, I know there’s times I’ll throw a good ball but then there’s times I’ll put the ball down; there’s times I’ll make a good covering tackle and times I’ll miss them, so it’s more just being consistent in my own game. After last year, I know I can do them well — it’s just about doing them over and over again now and to keep that level up.
With just seven members in Wests Tigers’ squad having played finals footy, Tedesco — like so many of the Club’s youngsters — is itching to get into the Club back into the top eight, speaking about the all-too-common frustrating feeling of watching finals footy.
“I think, as a Club, getting into the top eight would be a big step forward,” he said.
“The last few years I’ve been here, realistically, we haven’t been close to getting into the top eight, and it’s disappointing when it gets to the end of the year and you know you don’t have a chance of playing finals footy because you’re at the wrong end of the ladder.
“There’s plenty of really talented guys in this squad this year, and I think having the guys we’ve brought in too will really help us with some experience in those big moments.”
“So if we could make the top eight this year, I think it’ll be a big improvement for us.”