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Match Preview: vs New Zealand Warriors

After three months of toil, Wests Tigers are about to play their first competitive match of the 2023 campaign, against New Zealand Warriors in week one of the inaugural NRL Pre-season Challenge.

Thursday evening’s clash in Auckland will provide Wests Tigers members and fans with their first glimpse at several of the club’s newest recruits, along with many of the brightest young talents coming through the pathways system.

Several senior players have been rested from the match, providing those selected with the opportunity to stake their claim on one of the many positions still up for grabs ahead of Round 1.

Staines enjoying pre-season at his new club
Staines enjoying pre-season at his new club

One of those positional battles is set to ensue at fullback, where Daine Laurie, Charlie Staines and young gun Jahream Bula will fight it out for the number one jersey.

Laurie’s inclusion in the Indigenous All Stars squad provides Staines with the first chance to impress in the custodian role, with Bula set to come off the interchange bench.

Long-awaited return for Tommy Talau
Long-awaited return for Tommy Talau

Out wide, Tommy Talau and Liam Scolari both missed the entirety of 2022 after suffering ACL injuries and will make their return to the field alongside one another.

Former Waratah Triston Reilly will don the orange, black and white for the first time at five-eighth as he partners with halfback Brandon Wakeham, who recently joined the club from the Bulldogs.

Wests Tigers most recent recruit Brandon Wakeham
Wests Tigers most recent recruit Brandon Wakeham

After earning their first-grade debuts last season, Justin Matamua and Fonua Pole have been named in the back row alongside New South Wales U/19s representative Brandon Tumeth.

Brandon Tumeth in pre-season training at Campbelltown
Brandon Tumeth in pre-season training at Campbelltown

Head Coach Tim Sheens has elected to name a young interchange bench, containing several of the brightest prospects from across the Wests Tigers catchment.

Among the talented bunch are Balmain Tigers SG Ball Cup captains Josh Feledy and Tony Sukkar, as well as Australian Schoolboys representative Chris Fa’agutu.

Prop Aitasi James gets a start in Auckland
Prop Aitasi James gets a start in Auckland

After impressing in last year’s trial matches, hooker Rua Ngatikaura will also make his return in the match after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in 2022.

The NRL Preseason Challenge is set to spice up the trials in 2023 as teams compete for the grand prize of $100,000.

In addition to winning matches, teams will be encouraged to play an attacking brand of football and will receive bonus points for scoring tries, offloading and making line breaks.

All seventeen NRL teams, as well as Super League champions St Helens, will be in action over the two-week competition, with every match to be televised on Fox League and Kayo Sports.

TV and Live Stream Information:

TV - FOX League

Live Stream - KAYO Sports, Watch NRL (int.)

Latest PlayUp Odds:

Head-to-Head - New Zealand Warriors ($1.60) v Wests Tigers ($2.35)

Line - New Zealand Warriors -4.5 ($1.95) v Wests Tigers +4.5 ($1.85)

Odds correct as of 3:00pm, Tuesday, 7th February. 18+ only. Gamble Responsibly.

Acknowledgement of Country

Wests Tigers respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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