After claiming the club's Rookie of the Year Award in 2019, Wests Tigers forward Thomas Mikaele is ready to deliver an even stronger 2020 campaign off the back of a big pre-season.
The powerful Keebra Park forward looks set to feature in the club's Round 1 side to take on the St. George-Illawarra Dragons this Sunday as part of an improved Wests Tigers pack that will include new recruits Zane Musgrove and Luciano Leilua, having played 23 of a possible 24 games last year under Coach Michael Maguire.
A father now for the first time as well, 2020 is shaping as a big year for the prop forward with Mikaele growing in his confidence and ability.
“I’m feeling confident and better than last year,” Mikaele said ahead of the season opener this Sunday.
“I’m physically fit and my body has changed a lot from last year. I just want to show on the field how much I have changed myself.
“My motor has been a large contributor to that change and there's been a lot of other little things that have me feeling confident this year."
Since coming through the development system at Wests Tigers as a Jersey Flegg and then Development Player, Mikaele finished his debut season with close to 2,000 metres gained at an average of 86.5 metres per game — over a third of which came post-contact. In addition, the 22-year-old racked up a 92.3% tackle efficiency rate, but said the most helpful thing was the experience he gained last year.
“I’ve learned a lot about preparation and consistency being important," Mikaele reflected. "Diet is also a massive factor for me — I’ve been working on the times of the day I eat and overall food options,” said Mikaele.
“I’ve had discussions with Madge and I’m in the mindset of wanting to get my job done — whether that is in the starting line up or coming off the bench. Getting out there and doing my job for the team and playing good footy is my main focus."
With the season opener just days away, Mikaele said there was no hiding the excitement of knowing that competitive football was just around the corner.
“Madge definitely a lot of belief in me and the group,” said Mikaele.
“It’s fun to be around the same group as last year and welcoming in new members.
"It’s exciting to build more on our dynamics and groupings."
Match: Dragons v Wests Tigers
Round 1 -
Venue: WIN Stadium, Wollongong