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Dragons fear Tigers' Farah threat
He's not considered good enough for a NSW jumper, but St George Illawarra claim Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah is up there with the likes of the Thurstons and Lockyers as the biggest threats in the NRL.
While the Tigers line-up for Sunday's season opener against the Dragons boasts players such as Benji Marshall and human wrecking ball Taniela Tuiaki - who re-signed on a two-year deal - it is the man in the No.9 they fear most.
"He's one of the best in the competition now and he's going to be one of their key men," said Dragons veteran Simon Woolford, who will go head to head with Farah in the middle of the ruck.
"We played them last year out at Homebush and he pretty much beat us with his dummy half play, so we're going to have to keep an eye on him.
"He kick-starts a lot of their play around the ruck, and if their forwards go forward and he can do that and they've got Benji and those sorts of guys out wide, they can cause us a whole lot of trouble."
In that round nine game Woolford alluded to, Farah toyed with the Dragons, making 85 metres on just eight runs out of dummy half as the Tigers overwhelmed their fellow joint venture club 27-8.
Farah will be keen to make a big early impression in 2008, given a berth in the NSW Origin side is up for grabs. Incumbent Danny Buderus has already said he won't be giving up his spot without a fight, so Farah knows a strong start to the season is imperative.
And that has the Dragons nervous.
Coach Nathan Brown said his side had worked on a few different methods to try and limit the Tigers linchpin, including cutting his supply and momentum.
"He's in the top echelon of players in the game in probably one of the most important positions," Brown said.
"I'm sure at some stage he'll have some impact on the game.
"You've got to do a good job on some of the other blokes to enable you to do a good job on Robbie Farah.
"Blokes like Todd Payten, (Chris) Heighington, Liam Fulton, all those blokes are good players and if those blokes don't do a good job, Robbie Farah's going to have no impact on the game."
The Dragons' build-up to Sunday's Sydney Football Stadium showdown had a slight hiccup with skipper Mark Gasnier missing Wednesday's WIN Stadium session due to illness.
Gasnier is expected to be back at training on Thursday and team officials say his is no doubt to take on the Tigers.
Brown said he would wait until just before kick-off before deciding who to trim off his five man bench.
Tuiaki's new deal sees him secured to the Wests Tigers until the end of the 2010 season.
"I am very happy to stay with Wests Tigers. The club has looked after me well and I enjoy being here with my team-mates," Tuiaki said in a statement.
The 25-year-old played 24 matches for Wests Tigers in 2007, scoring eight tries.