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'Stability' the key to Tigers breaking finals hoodoo: Twal

There's been many a false dawn since the Wests Tigers last reached the finals in 2011, but lock Alex Twal senses the club is about to make good on their potential.

With coach Michael Maguire laying the foundation for the past two seasons, Twal says the Tigers have the building blocks to snap the NRL's longest play-offs drought.

Their quest begins on Sunday afternoon with a tough trip to the nation's capital to face the Raiders.

"There's a different feel around the organisation. I just think we've got a lot of stability from head office down, and the club's also made some tremendous signings," Twal told

"We've got James Tamou, who possesses a lot of great leadership attributes. We've got Joe Ofahengaue, who has played for Queensland and his best football's still in front of him.

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"We've signed James Roberts - everyone knows what he's capable of doing. There's been a lot of young fellas the club has signed too, which is making the future very bright for the Tigers."

Former Panthers captain Tamou has earned rave reviews aplenty since joining the Tigers off the back of a grand final loss.

Twal has only played alongside the veteran in a trial but has made sure to tap into the prop's extensive wisdom.

"He's passed a lot of things on to me. A lot of things off the field just with recovery and professionalism," he said.

"On the field, because he's been around for so long, there are little intricacies and details that I might not have picked up before.

"Him being around, he's always willing to give me a hand and he's a professional. He's always out there doing extras, he's always the last one off the park. I can't speak highly enough of him.

"A lot of the boys have tried to soak as much knowledge off him as we can. He's experienced a lot in the game, and his experience and his knowledge of the game is awesome for us."

Having been limited to 12 games in 2020 because of knee and rib injuries, the first focus for Twal, who has completed a Bachelor of Commerce with a Major in Marketing, is staying healthy.

The workhorse will be crucial for the Tigers pack as they aim to overpower the fearsome Canberra middles led by Queensland Origin pair Josh Papalii and Dunamis Lui as well as Joe Tapine.

Off the bench, the Tigers will get plenty of impact from 20-year-old Stefano Utoikamanu, who signed with the club prior to last season but the Eels wouldn't release him and he played three NRL games at Parramatta.

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"It's been one of my best pre-seasons I reckon and I'm going into the year confident we can do a job and surprise a few people here," Utoikamanu said earlier this week.

"I wanted to make a good first impression and not come across as someone who is lazy or doesn't want to be here. I can't wait to play first grade against guys who have been there a while. Someone like Josh Papalii has played Origin and for his country.

"I know it's early in my career and I have a lot of give. I'm not sure how long I'll play but will just look to add some impact."

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If needed, Utoikamanu, who "shed a few kilos" upon linking with the Tigers, believes he could punch out 60 minutes.

Maguire's side heads to Canberra on a high following their 52-18 dismantling of the Sea Eagles in a trial.

"We're aware Manly didn't have their strongest side but there's a lot of positives and confidence around the place," said second-rower Luke Garner, who will play on the right edge with Roberts.

Garner admitted the Raiders have "got a strong forward pack, but I'd like to think so do we with some of the players we've brought to the club".