While they may not be technically marking up on each other, right centres Kevin Naiqama and Josh Morris are both key men for their respective backlines and are set to prove crucial for both team’s chances this Sunday.
The question in this statistical match-up is who can cause more “damage” in attack from right centre, with Naiqama taking on young gun Kerrod Holland and Morris running at speedster Tim Simona.
After a stellar first season in Wests Tigers colours last year, Naiqama has continued his run of strong performances in 2016 with six tries in nine matches.
The Fijian International has also set-up three other four-pointers during the season and is quickly establishing himself as one of the NRL’s most lethal attacking centres.
On the other hand, Morris has a fight on his hand to retain his New South Wales jersey this year with it being reported that Josh Dugan is in the frame as an alternate option at right centre.
While that may be media speculation at this stage, it’ll no doubt fire-up the 13-game State of Origin representative who will be keen to impress over the next fortnight ahead of the Blues’ team announcement.
Morris has been solid for the Bulldogs this season, crossing the try-line on four occasions including a strong effort against the Eels during their last start loss against Parramatta.
Whie Naiqama has formed a strong partnership with winger David Nofoaluma in recent times, Morris will partner Tyrone Phillips for just the second time with Will Hopoate’s withdrawal forcing Sam Perrett to fullback.
Naiqama and Morris have met previously on five occasions, with the Wests Tigers’ centre holding a three-two advantage over his opposite.
Morris missed last year’s Round 8 clash at ANZ Stadium due to injury, with Naiqama notching up another win against the Bulldogs.
In fact, Naiqama holds a formidable record against Canterbury-Bankstown; winning four and losing two during his time with Wests Tigers, Penrith and Newcastle.
Most consecutive games…
With Mitchell Moses withdrawing from the South Sydney game in Round 9, Naiqama has now played the most consecutive run of NRL games currently in the Wests Tigers’ side.
The Arncliffe Scots junior played every match during the 2015 season (24), and combined with every game this year (9), it makes for a consecutive run of 33 matches.
It’s an amazing record considering the Fijian International has played every game since joining the Club at the start of the 2015 season from the Penrith Panthers.
Petero Civoneceva Medal
Naiqama was recognised for his brilliant performances last week while in camp with the Fijian side, taking out the Petero Civoneceva Medal.
The medal is awarded to the best Fijian NRL player each year, an outstanding honour for Naiqama who has represented his country on nine occasions.
Naiqama has played the Bulldogs more than any other team in his career, coming up against them on six previous occasions.
This will however be the first time he starts at centre against Canterbury-Bankstown, with all prior starts coming on the wing.
The positional change towards the back end of 2015 has seen Naiqama excel and form a great partnership on the right side with Nofoaluma.
It’s hard to forget last year’s effort in this match from Naiqama, who set-up one of the tries of the year, flicking the ball back from over the dead-ball line to Tedesco who planted it down.
Wests Tigers Members and fans will be hoping for more Naiqama-magic at this Sunday afternoon showdown – it’s a game not to be missed!