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Friday Focus: Other first-time battles

Final preparations are underway for Saturday's double header at CommBank Stadium when Wests Tigers take on the Dolphins (NRL) and the Dragons (NRLW).

The NRL match will be the inaugural encounter between the joint-venture and the NRL’s seventeenth club, which entered the competition at the start of the 2023 season.

It will also be Wests Tigers first match against the Dragons in the NRLW

We take a look back at a handful of memorable matches from other 'first time' encounters.

Wests Tigers inaugural match against the Brisbane Broncos at Campbelltown Sports Stadium in 2000 was a nail-biter.

Facing the eventual premiers, the competition newcomers surprised the rugby league world by bursting out of the gates to claim a 14-6 halftime lead.

Despite an impressive hat-trick from fullback Joel Caine, the match ultimately ended in a 24-all draw.

The result was just as exciting the following week, when Wests Tigers hosted the New Zealand Warriors for the first time at Leichhardt Oval.

A double from rampaging centre Nigel Vagana placed the Warriors in position to claim victory, but Scott Pethybridge and John Simon missed all four of their combined attempts at goal.

After Pethybridge was sent off for a high tackle, halfback Craig Field seized the moment and stepped up to slot a crucial field goal to secure the joint-venture’s maiden victory.

The tightly-fought encounters continued throughout the 2000 season, with Wests Tigers remarkably earning the club’s second draw in Round 8 against Parramatta Eels

Tries to Matt Seers and Mark Stimson were cancelled out by four-pointers to Andrew Ryan and Brett Hodgson, who would eventually play an integral part in Wests Tigers’ premiership-winning campaign in 2005.

With no golden point to break the deadlock, both sides were forced to split the points in front of almost 15,000 spectators at the ‘Eighth Wonder’.

Thankfully, Wests Tigers had more luck in their opening clash against their other Western Sydney rivals, the Penrith Panthers.

With Kevin McGuinness, Terry Hill and Shane Walker all missing, the joint-venture was forced to lean on its stars of the future, including a 23-year-old prop named John Skandalis.

The young outfit stood up against the likes of Ryan Girdler, Craig Gower and Tony Puletua to defeat Royce Simmons’ team, with centre John Carlaw running in two tries.

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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