Naiqama: Wests Tigers on rise but long way from peak
Wests Tigers players Kevin Naiqama and Josh Aloiai say there's no beating of the chests over at Concord Oval because they have downed the premiers winners twice within a month.
But while the Melbourne Storm players lick their wounded pride, the Tigers are sending ominous warnings to the 14 other NRL clubs.
It comes in two parts: firstly, there's a new Tigers team in town with a fresh attitude; and secondly, a little of the "you ain't seen nothing yet" adage.
"It's great what we've done but in saying that, as a playing group we still don't feel we're at our best," said Naiqama even with a 4-1 record to start the 2018 Telstra Premiership.
"It's good that we can still win games while not at our best. That's a real positive as we know there's so much more we can offer and we can do.
"Melbourne is not only a quality side but a benchmark team of the comp," Naiqama said of the 10-8 win over Storm in round two and the 11-10 victory in round five.
"It wasn't easy to beat them. It had to go down to the wire again. But beating them twice has given the club a great start. Winning helps build the culture we're trying to create – forge a new identity."
Manly at Lottoland on Sunday will be the next team to feel how sharp the Tigers claws are. And the visitors will be boosted by the addition of Josh Reynolds for the first time in 2018.
The only loss for Ivan Cleary's fourth-placed Tigers was by two points to the Brisbane Broncos in round three – another top-four side from last year.
Aloiai, in his third season at the Wests Tigers, says there's been a re-awakening of the club's culture.
"I want us as a club to finish the year and say 'We're back'. We've created a strong culture; a strong identity; something that flowed in years past but is coming again," the second-rower said.
"Success will come out of that. We are still in the process of creating and solidifying the culture here," Aloiai said, when asked to quantify what the new culture was based on.
"It's hard to put into an exact sentence but I think there's a few words like 'Selfless', 'Hardworking', 'Resilient' and 'Uncompromising'. That is what we would really like to describe our culture here."
Building on the famous blue-collar tradition at the joint venture is the addition of cool heads like Cleary as head coach, former Tigers premiership-winning fullback Brett Hodgson as Intrust Super Premiership coach, and players like 2005 hero Benji Marshall and fellow Kiwis international, Ben Matulino.
"For us young Kiwi boys he's a childhood hero for a lot of us," Aloiai said of the former Warriors prop.
"To be sharing a locker with him and now running onto the field with him, I can hardly believe it. It's pretty cool.
"The thing I like about Benny is he's very humble… sits down, doesn't say too much but he leads us regardless. It's a good way for all our team to be – first by actions then by your words."