Wests Tigers boss Tim Sheens has tried to keep them out of the media spotlight this week, but Sheens is looking for more attacking creativity from marquee players Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah. Obviously it’s no secret that Marshall and Farah are the keys to sparking up the Tigers attack and the timing is perfect with their opponents today – Newcastle having impressive defence which has kept the NRL’s top two sides tryless in the first period of their last 2 games.
Sheens has worked hard this week to downplay the returns of Marshall and Farah from injury for the Newcastle home game.
But Sheens knows that the Tigers do need more spark than in recent weeks, with their young opponents the Knights keeping 2007 premiers Melbourne and premiership front runners the Gold Coast Titans scoreless the first periods of their last 2 games.
Sheens commented on the improved defence from the Knights so far in the 2008 NRL Premiership. “That’s (Knights coach) Brian Smith all over,” Sheens added.
“He’s got a lot of big boys in that squad so they make their one-on-one tackles, they don’t need too many players to help them out.
“They’ve stuck to a strong pattern and they’re consistently motivated after a lot of crap that went down in Newcastle last year.
“Brian Smith has them heading in the right direction. And everyone’s talking about the Knights as a tough opponent in 08, so in that regard they’re showing heaps of courage”.
Marshall returns from his troublesome knee injury and hooker Farah returns from his on-going back problem – which will see him playing only his first game in six weeks.
“I think I’ll be a little underdone” Farah said.
“I’ve trained hard but, no matter how much training you do, that first game back’s the toughest and I’ll be blowing out there.
“I’ll be happy to get 80 minutes safely.”
It’s matter of “together at last” for the Tigers’ group.
The 2005 premiers are so much more potent when the terrific trio of Marshall, Farah and fullback Brett Hodgson are in the picture, while fans salivate at the thought of the entertainment the trio could provide with some time on the park together.
“We haven’t played together in a long time but hopefully we can string a few games together … and I’m sure that the more games we get under our belt together we’re going to be tough to beat,” Farah said.
“We won’t put too much pressure on ourselves this week. It’s the first game back for me and Benji and we’re both going to struggling at times with our fitness and I guess our timing in the game.”
Sheens, too, is cautious.
“The biggest mistake you make is counting on certain players to win you games,” he said.
“These guys certainly add some direction to our game and some class but it could be another two or three weeks before they’re really playing to where we’d want them to play.”
For Newcastle, they are missing representative NSW State of Origin stars Danny Buderus and Ben Cross, while custodian Kurt Gidley has been brought down by a broken cheekbone.
Michael Young is set to play no.9 after Buderus’ replacement Matt Hilder was suspended.
Former Test big man Steve Simpson will return for his first game for the Knights since round 1 after getting over a knee injury.