What are the biggest storylines and questions to watch out for in Wests Tigers’ Round 2 match against the Penrith Panthers this Sunday at Campbelltown Sports Stadium?
Here’s five big questions to keep an eye on during the week and in the game!
1. Will Jason Taylor make any chances to the Round 1 team?
The old adage of “don’t change a winning team” may ring true for Wests Tigers and Jason Taylor this weekend following an impressive start to the season against the Rabbitohs. The question mark will be around that of Matt Ballin and Jacob Liddle, neither of whom featured in Round 1 but are closing in on their returns from injury. Both players trained with the full squad on Monday morning, and should one or both be included in the squad for Sunday, Jack Littlejohn may drop out of the final 17. However, if they don’t return this week, look for Littlejohn and Matt McIlwrick to again fulfill the hooking duties against Penrith, as they did very well against South Sydney last week.
2. What impact will the Campbelltown crowd have?
With ticket sales flying along for Sunday’s game, the Campbelltown crowd could well have a big impact in the final result — similarly as they did in all four games played at the suburban ground last season. Wests Tigers were in leading positions in all four games, and almost pulled off a brilliant come-from-behind win in their final game against the Titans despite losing James Tedesco to injury during the match. The 16,783 in attendance that day were in full voice, and in somewhat of a local derby against the Panthers this week, will no doubt make their presence felt again this week — particularly with a sunny Sunday afternoon predicted. Wests Tigers have not lost on a Sunday afternoon at Campbelltown Sports Stadium since Round 8, 2010.
3. Which young spine will have the upper hand?
Sunday’s game will see two of the most exciting young spines go head-to-head, with the battle between the two one of the more interesting in-game storylines to follow. James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks were superb together and individually against the Rabbitohs and will be keen to produce a similar scoreline to the last time they faced the Panthers together — a 34-26 victory back in Round 17, 2016. On the other hand, Matt Moylan, Te Maire Martin and Nathan Cleary will be determined to improve from their poor showing on Saturday against the Dragons, where they went down 42-10. The trio had promising touches in the loss, but will need to find the form that took the Panthers into the second week of the 2016 finals series if they are to keep pace with a firing Wests Tigers attack that looked lethal against the Rabbitohs in Round 1.
4. Can David Nofoaluma keep his Campbelltown run going?
A Campbelltown local junior, Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma will be looking to keep his remarkable try-scoring run at Campbelltown Sports Stadium this weekend. In addition to his 2013 Dally M Try of the Year at the ground, Nofoaluma has scored nine tries in his past seven games at Campbelltown. Averaging a try per game in his 11 career games there, Nofoaluma also crossed in the Club’s trial match at the venue, so look out for the 23-year-old (who was impressive on Friday night) to keep his run going.
5. Will we see a close game between the two sides?
Off the back of contrasting wide margins in Round 1, Sunday’s game could well follow a similar storyline for Wests Tigers and the Panthers as their previous matchups. The two sides have not played a close game since 2013, when Wests Tigers won 20-18 out at the foot of the mountains. Since then, Penrith have won three games by margins of 16, 23 and 30 points, while Wests Tigers also recorded an eight-point win — which was made closer thanks to two Panther tries in the final five minutes. With rain expected to clear by the weekend, fans will be hoping for a close, enthralling encounter come Sunday!