While the 2018 #NRL Pre-Season is still a few weeks away, there's a bunch of warm-up clashes happeni...
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Toothless Tigers host crowing Roosters
Having used as many coaches as they've had wins this season, the Wests Tigers find themselves in a position of immense mediocrity having lost their past four matches to sit 15th on the premiership ladder. Having started the season in stunning fashion with a dynamic performance over South Sydney, contract dramas and a succession of coaches has the joint venture in a position that appears likely to worsen before an inevitable rock bottom provides relief for the club. In the wake of their most recent loss, veteran Chris Lawrence is set to spend time on the sidelines with a hamstring injury, with his place to be filled by the returning Sauaso Sue. Mid-season purchase Tuimoala Lolohea should benefit after a mixed showing in his club debut against the Dragons, while serving as a jolt of unpredictability in an otherwise pedestrian side. Managing just one win from their past 13 clashes against the Roosters, the Tigers face a difficult proposition on Sunday made all the more challenging by the quality of their opponents.
It may seem strange to look at the Roosters 2016 campaign as a blessing, but in many ways the pain endured has only strengthened the side as a whole. While a 25% success rate may seem particularly disappointing, the chance to inject several younger players into the ranks appears to have produced benefits that will serve the club well for years to come. Having established a formidable backline headlined by internationals such as Michael Jennings and Shaun Kenny-Dowall, the displays of young guns Joseph Manu and Latrell Mitchell have been outstanding this season, with the pair playing well beyond their years. Positioned in fourth place heading into the Round 14 fixture, coach Trent Robinson will be buoyed by the return of halfback Mitchell Pearce in the only change from the side that downed the Broncos last Saturday. Making just their second appearance at Campbelltown Stadium in over a decade, the Roosters may not be overly familiar with the Western Sydney surface, but should have minimal difficulties accounting for their opponents.
Last meeting: Round 13 2016 - Roosters 32 Wests Tigers 18
Who to watch: In a season of immense disappointment for the Tigers, one of the rare shining lights has been the rise of Moses Suli. Inking a seven-figure deal before playing a first grade game, the hype has been justified with the 19-year-old putting in a strong display in his representative debut for Tonga, while after averaging in excess 100 metres per game. Facing off against fellow young gun Joseph Manu, the duel between two of the best youngsters in the league could play a huge factor in determining which side leaves Campbelltown with two competition points.
Off-contract and in danger of losing his Maroons jersey, Roosters forward Aidan Guerra stands at the crossroads of his NRL career. Set to turn 30 next season and with a host of younger players nipping at his heels, the seasoned back-rower will be out to produce the form that saw him play an integral role in the premiership success of the Bondi club, as well as earn representative selection for Australia. Capable of terrorising opponents at his best, Guerra is yet to cross for a four-pointer in 2017 and will be hoping to capitalise on an out-of-sorts Tigers outfit.
My tip: One of the harshest realities the Tigers have to face is the almost certain improvement and success James Tedesco and Aaron Woods will have in 2018. For as hard as they try, the Tigers as a collective lack an identity on the field and it's difficult to see that changing in the near future. Roosters by 30.
1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Michael Chee-Kam 4. Moses Suli 5. Kevin Naiqama 6. Tuimoala Lolohea 7. Jack Littlejohn 8. Aaron Woods 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ava Seumanufagai 11. Sauaso Sue 12. Kyle Lovett 13. Elijah Taylor 14. Tim Grant 15. Jj Felise 16. Esan Marsters 17. Jacob Liddle
1. Michael Gordon 3. Latrell Mitchell 12. Mitchell Aubusson 4. Joseph Manu 5. Blake Ferguson 6. Luke Keary 7. Mitchell Pearce 8. Jared Waerea-Hargreaves 9. Jake Friend 10. Dylan Napa 16. Ryan Matterson 15. Aidan Guerra 13. Sio Siua Taukeiaho 14. Isaac Liu 17. Connor Watson 18. Zane Tetevano 19. Kane Evans