The buzz of expectation is continuing to build around Tigers new recruit Gareth Ellis, with coach Tim Sheens set to name both Benji Marshall and Gareth Ellis in virtually a full-strength Tigers team to face Souths in this Sunday’s hotly anticipated trial to mark the reopening of Redfern Oval.
Souths too are also expected to wheel out their big names for the sold-out, members-only game.
With only limited trial games on hand, Sheens said he didn’t want to waste time – hence naming quality squads including Marshall and Ellis. For UK import Gareth Ellis, his venture to Australia after leaving Super League big names Leeds – is littered with expectation. Wests are striving for their first finals birth since taking the NRL prize in 2005, and many are looking to the talented UK forward to give them muscle in the engine room.
The other area of expectation at Wests is the halves pairing. Most predict Sheens will give Benji Marshall the no. 7 jersey – but who will fill the void at pivot? Chris Lawrence was a possibility with his ability and build not dissimilar to a young Brad Fittler. However, the urge to launch Lawrence into pivot and mould the rookie into a solid half won’t be happening just yet – with John Morris believed to be getting the early nod.
“I think one experiment in the halves is probably enough,” Sheens said. “I think Chris has got enormous potential as a five-eighth but he’s only 20, and the young guy has got representative centre written all over him.”
Marshall is set to skipper the team, with teammate Robbie Farah missing in action, along with Todd Payten and centre Dean Collis who will also warm the seats in the stands for this trial game.
Coach Sheens said while he will come out with guns blazing in the first half, he will rotate the players and may give several juniors a run in the second 40 minutes.
Souths coach Jason Taylor is also believed to be using a mix of NRL talent and rookies from the club’s under-20s team.