Wests Tigers NRL Coach Jason Taylor says he’s looking forward to seeing a “close to full-strength” team in action this Sunday against the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium.
With captain Aaron Woods and front row partner Tim Grant both named to return from injury this Sunday along with Mitchell Moses — who was a late withdrawal from last Thursday’s win over South Sydney — Wests Tigers come into the match with an extremely strong squad, missing only fullback James Tedesco to a shoulder injury.
Add into that mix former New Zealand international Elijah Taylor — who joined the Club last weekend on a mid-season move from the Penrith Panthers — and it’s easy to see why Taylor is so enthused about his side’s chances heading into Sunday’s game.
“Everybody is feeling fresh and had some good training last week or a good match under their belt, which leads us well into this weekend’s game,” Taylor said. “The guys had a real spring in their step at training on Monday having had a few days off, which is good.
“Some guys coming back from injury as well is going to make a difference for us.
“We’ve got pretty much a full squad to pick from for this game, which is pleasing.
“Aaron [Woods] and Tim [Grant] back available is a huge boost for us. JJ [Felise] did a great job in the last three games stepping up from Holden Cup, and the way that he handled it showed that next time he’s needed, he’ll be ready for us, but it’s definitely helpful to have players with their experience and calibre back in the team this week.”
Having named a five-man interchange bench for Sunday’s game, Taylor said the final make-up of his bench would be determined later in the week, with former New Zealand international Elijah Taylor pushing hard to make his Club debut against the Bulldogs.
“We’ve got 18 named there and we’ll work out exactly who’s right in the next couple of days and what our team will look like,” the Coach said. “There’s a bit of uncertainty on the back of those games on the weekend — just because the guys that played haven’t had a full session yet— so we just need to manage the guys and make sure they’re right.
“Elijah only turned up for the first time yesterday, but we’ve got him straight into the 18.
“We’ll work out exactly how that team looks later in the week, but he’s very keen to get himself going and be a part of our squad. He’s desperate to get back into first grade — which is where he belongs as a former international and the respect that he has.
“We’ll look to get him in as soon as he gets settled in with things around here.”
With star fullback James Tedesco sidelined for the next few weeks with a shoulder injury sustained against the Rabbitohs, Taylor said he was confident that his replacement — Justin Hunt — would be more than ready for his first NRL game of the year having produced several strong performances in the past month for the Club’s Intrust Super Premiership side.
“We’ve got Justin named at fullback, and the good thing is that he gets his reward for playing really well in our reserve grade team over the last few weeks,” Taylor said.
“He played in the NSW Residents team on Sunday and did a great job there as well so it’s great for him to get his opportunity. Justin has played plenty of first-grade in the NRL before so he’ll get first shot of that No. 1 jersey this week and I’m sure he’ll go well.”
Wests Tigers will look to make it back-to-back wins when they take on the Bulldogs this Sunday, May 15 from 4:00pm as they celebrate Indigenous Round at ANZ Stadium.