Wests Tigers legends Liam Fulton and Robbie Farah discuss their debuts, their favourite season and who made the biggest impact on the squad in the latest episode of the Beyond the 80 Podcast.
Fulton made his first-grade debut at 19 years of age in the final round of the 2003 season. Having waited the entire year, it was an unplanned debut for the Wests junior who had just come off a SG Ball-winning captaincy the season prior before.
“I remember Farah making his debut mid-season and Bryce Gibbs too," Fulton recalled. "I remember four or five weeks out from the end of the year, Tim Sheens called me to his office. He said to me “You’re a bit skinny, a bit too lean, are you going to be putting on a bit of muscle? We’re not going to put you on for your debut yet until mid-next year.
“I was only 19 at the time and I was still nervous to speak to Sheeny.
"Then all of a sudden, Terry Hill doesn’t like travelling to New Zealand apparently, so he pulled out late and Sheeny threw me in there.
“I was lucky enough to play the last game of that year.
"In 2004 I only played maybe three games that year so I didn’t play that many either. They were waiting for me to put some muscle on, but it never happened," he laughed.
Farewell Robbie Farah
Farah was in a similar position at the time to Fulton — a talented youngster who got his shot in the 2003 season but didn't get a proper crack at the number nine jersey until a later date after picking up an injury in 2004.
“It's difficult waiting for your debut but I was I was quite young so you just got to be patient and for me it was about learning," Farah said.
"I came into the squad when Darren Centre and Robbie Mears were the hookers and I remember quite clearly — and I still talk to Darren about it — he really took me under his wing especially in training and taught me what is like to train as a first-grader.
“He always tells a story actually that I went up to him as a kid and I'd ask why are you helping me because I want to take your spot. He'd say that 'I know you want to take my spot, but my time is almost done.'
"He was passing the baton over to me and really talking to me at training,
"Then I had that injury and had to work hard to get back from that. I probably wasn't ready to play 80 minutes anyway so Ben Galea was starting hooker and I was coming off the bench and then slowly I got lot more comfortable and got more bit more match fit and a bit bigger.
"All of us young guys, we were quite small with our bodies — we probably hadn't developed and filled out — so we needed a bit of time to build ourselves up to get ready for the weekly grind the NRL.”
Long known as the prankster and joker of Wests Tigers, Fulton said it wasn't something that he intentionally set out to do, and credited one of his former teammates for really setting the bar in terms of the joking.
“That’s just my personality, I didn’t mean to become the joker of the team," Fulton said.
"Daniel Fitzhenry — he was the main joker and I was just his sidekick. Everyone was scared of Fitzhenry but no-one was scared of me.
"I remember Fitzhenry used to do things to Tim Sheens and he use to say it’s alright but if I did it he would come down on me and crush me.”
Covering a range of topics throughout the hour-long podcast, Farah said that aside from the 2005 Premiership-winning year, the team throughout 2010 and 2011 was the most memorable times he had in rugby league.
“We had our cycle there in 2005 where we won the comp and then it fell away, most of the boys left and moved on some retired," Farah reflected.
"In 2010 and 2011 we had a group there with Blake Ayshford, Tim Moltzen and Lote Tuqiri came on board... we had this unbelievable side. Gareth Ellis also came over from England and he had a massive impact on our club.
"Looking back, now you have groups you get close with and form bonds with; that’s definitely what we got with the 2005 side and definitely what we got with that 2010-11 group. Looking back on my career I think the most fun that we had was those couple of years. Every day at training was the biggest laugh.
"If I could go back to any time in my career apart from winning the comp it probably be that couple of years."
Listen to Beyond the 80 Podcast to hear more about who the winger Robbie believes would have been one of the most powerful if it wasn’t for injury, as well as the inside word about those showdowns against the North Queensland Cowboys...