Wests Tigers Coach Michael Maguire has named his 21-man squad for Sunday’s clash against Canberra Raiders at GIO Stadium, and there's plenty of reasons to be excited about the season opener.
Five of the club’s new recruits will make their Wests Tigers debuts, while there's also plenty of interest with new selections and player positions.
Here are the key talking points following the Round 1 Team Announcement!
Daine Laurie named at fullback
New recruit Daine Laurie has won the race to the fullback position for Sunday afternoon’s match against the Raiders, and although he’s only been at the club for just over a month, he’s already made an immediate impact. Laurie starred in his side's second and final trial game with a hand in four tries, and will now look to add to his NRL tally with his new club. The new recruit played three games for Penrith in 2020, having made his NRL in Round 13 against Canberra — the side he’ll now make his Wests Tigers debut against this Sunday.
Match: Raiders v Wests Tigers
Round 1 -
Venue: GIO Stadium, Canberra
Positional switch for Moses Mbye
With Adam Doueihi suspended for the opening match of the season, Moses Mbye will partner Luke Brooks in the halves for Sunday’s fixture. Mbye didn't feature in the second trial game due to a minor hamstring complaint but will add plenty of class and guile around the middle of the park as he combines with Laurie and Brooks. The 27-year-old has played a total of 135 NRL games in his career with 67 of those being at either halfback or in the halves — exactly half of his career following Sunday's game — so he's certainly more than capable of a strong performance.
Tamou excited to lead his new team into round 1
AJ Kepaoa set to soar on left wing
After impressing in the final trial match against Manly-Warringah, AJ Kepaoa has been named on the wing for the opening game of the season, partnering Joey Leilua on the left edge. Having made his first-grade debut the club last year, Kepaoa has a strong strike rate of four tries in his five games and will look to add to that number in 2021. His selection in the starting side means Tommy Talau has been named on the bench and will likely be used as a utility when required.
Big minutes looming for Jacob Liddle
Jacob Liddle has been handed the number nine jersey and is set for big minutes after Coach Michael Maguire named no other dummy-half on the bench. Promising rake Jake Simpkin impressed in pre-season but will instead feature in the Knock-On Effect NSW Cup this week, meaning the 24-year-old Liddle will likely play the full 80 minutes at hooker against Canberra this Sunday.
Garner and Wests Tigers mentally prepared for a successful 2021 season
Big starting pack and even bigger bench
Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire has named a big forward pack to take on the Raiders with captain James Tamou and Joe Ofahengaue forming a new front-row rotation, while Alex Twal will start at lock. Maguire has also named three middles on his bench with Maori All Stars representative Russell Packer joining Thomas Mikaele and Stefano Utoikamanu — the latter of whom will make his Wests Tigers debut. Luciano Leilua and Luke Garner have been named in the second row and could be set for 80-minute games each with no second row forward on the bench.