Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire believes the next fortnight is the perfect opportunity to see his younger players step up as they show their ability in the final two weeks of the season.
With a number of experienced players sidelined through injury, a handful of rising players will get an opportunity against the Panthers and Bulldogs to close out the year.
“We have quite a number of young players coming up and this gives them a great opportunity,” Maguire said.
“We’ve got a few of our senior guys missing so it opens the door for some of the younger players to stand up.
“Young Stefano [Utoikamanu] is one we continually talk about, Shawn Blore is starting to play week in, week out footy — he’s playing 80-minute games, which he hasn’t done for two years.
“We have a good opportunity over the next two weeks, and we want to finish the season well.”
Utoikamanu ready for a big contest against Penrith
Maguire has thrown the number six jersey towards Jock Madden for Sunday’s clash with the Panthers in the absence of Adam Doueihi, who has been ruled out with an ACL injury.
The 21-year-old playmaker will play his second NRL game after making his first grade debut against Newcastle at Magic Round.
“I’m looking forward to seeing Jock play. He’s been very patient in the background, working very hard, he’s very diligent around his game,” Maguire said.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him take control of the game with ‘Brooksy’ [halfback Luke Brooks] and the rest of the spine.
“He’s very strong about pushing the team around, so I’m looking forward to seeing the spine connect.”
Maguire has shared his disappointment following the serious injury to Doueihi and gave an update on his five-eighth’s target date to return.
“Off the back of a really good year, he’s really grown as a player,” Maguire said.
“It’s obviously tough for him, the players around him and the coaching staff because he’s been very good this year.
“We’ve got to get him into an operation first — that’s the first thing the doctors are dealing with over the next week.
“Depending on it’s a seven-month to nine-month turnaround, that’s the window we move into.
“Knowing Adam with the way he goes about his training, I’m sure it’ll be the lesser time. That would be around Round 4-ish. That’s the mark we’re hoping he can be back by, but we have to see how the operation goes.”
Wests Tigers will travel to Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe to take on the in-from Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
“We’re playing against a pretty handy side, so it’ll be a good challenge for us,” the coach said.
“I’m sure the Panthers are going to be strong. This is the time of the year that you need to aim up.
“It’s a good rivalry and we need the rivalries in the game. It’s going to be a big match and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Match: Panthers v Wests Tigers
Round 24 -
Venue: Moreton Daily Stadium, Redcliffe