Wests Tigers v Sea Eagles preview
3 hours ago | Tim Costello
Historic foes meet in Indigenous Round
Sitting atop the premiership ladder as outright competition leaders, the South Sydney Rabbitohs will be looking to record their best start to a season in three decades by accounting for the erratic Wests Tigers at ANZ Stadium.
Equalling their best start to a campaign since being readmitted into the premiership with a hard-fought 16-12 win over Canberra last Saturday, the Rabbitohs will be full of confidence against the joint venture as they focus their efforts on surpassing the record set by the last South Sydney team to claim the minor premiership in 1989 with 12 wins from their opening 13 matches.
Holding a surprisingly poor record against the Wests Tigers since 2015 with two wins from seven clashes, coach Wayne Bennett will be aware of the importance of coming away with two competition points heading into the representative season, with Damien Cook and Dane Gagai certainties to be named for New South Wales and Queensland, while another five players have been rumoured to be in contention for selection in Brad Fittler and Kevin Walters teams respectively.
Sticking solid with the same squad that triumphed at GIO Stadium last week, Bayley Sironen, Billy Brittain and Jacob Gagan remain in contention to be included in the final 17, in preparation for next week's clash with Parramatta, minus the club's Origin representatives.
Enduring the heartache of outclassing their opponents, only to finish on the wrong end of the scoreboard for the second time this season, the Wests Tigers will be aiming to claim a major scalp on Saturday evening.
Conceding two tries in the final ten minutes against Melbourne to go down 24-22 last Thursday, coach Michael Maguire will have additional incentive to skin the competition leaders as he faces his former club for the first time since being shown the door at the end of 2017.
Sitting in seventh position with a 50 per cent success rate over the opening ten rounds, the Tigers have proven to be a difficult team to gauge with their best performances alluding to form capable of rivalling any opponent, while in contrast their worst has seen rivals score points at will due to sub-standard defence.
In the only change from the team defeated by the Storm, Robert Jennings will move to the wing for his 50th appearance in the NRL at the expense of Mahe Fonua, allowing Paul Momirovski to start at centre for the second time this season. Despite failing to get on the field last Thursday, Jacob Liddle has been retained on the bench.
Last meeting: Round 25 2018 - Rabbitohs 51 Wests Tigers 10
Who to watch: With uncertainty still lingering over which player will wear the number seven jersey for New South Wales in a fortnight's time, Rabbitohs halfback Adam Reynolds will be out to press his case for a Blues recall with another strong showing. Playing two matches in the unsuccessful 2016 series under Laurie Daley, the 29-year-old premiership winner has enjoyed one of his strongest seasons to date, forcing 14 repeat sets and enjoying tremendous success as a goal kicker - highlighted by 19 conversions from his past 20 attempts. Possessing an unrivalled kicking game along with previous experience with the two leading five-eighth contenders - Luke Keary and Cody Walker - expect to see Reynolds at his best on Saturday night to force Brad Fittler to roll the dice on the lucky seven.
Unable to get a look in under Ivan Cleary last season, former South Sydney premiership winner Chris McQueen has returned with a vengeance in 2019 after reuniting with Michael Maguire. Playing 80 minutes every week since coming into the Tigers' forward pack a month ago, the 32-year-old Queensland and England representative has been resolute in defence, while providing the left edge with an attacking threat capable of causing opponents havoc with his ability to break the line. Coming up against former teammate Sam Burgess in a crucial personal duel, look for McQueen to be up to the task of containing the Rabbitohs captain as he chases his first four-pointer in over two years.
The favourite: Having only lost one game this season in golden point, the Rabbitohs are expected to maintain their dominance at home.
My tip: While the Tigers have shown themselves to be capable of scoring points and capitalising upon more-fancied opponents, the class of the Rabbitohs should prove too strong. Rabbitohs by 16.
We acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country on which this match takes place - the Wangal clan of the Darug nation, and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and emerging.
1. Corey Allen 2. Mawene Hiroti 3. Ethan Lowe 4. Dane Gagai 5. Campbell Graham 6. Cody Walker 7. Adam Reynolds 14. Tevita Tatola 9. Damien Cook 10. Thomas Burgess 11. John Sutton 12. Sam Burgess 13. Cameron Murray 8. George Burgess 15. Mark Nicholls 16. Dean Britt 17. Liam Knight
5. Corey Thompson 2. Robert Jennings 3. Paul Momirovski 4. Esan Marsters 18. David Nofoaluma 6. Benji Marshall 7. Luke Brooks 8. Ben Matulino 9. Robbie Farah 10. Alex Twal 11. Ryan Matterson 12. Chris McQueen 13. Matt Eisenhuth 14. Jacob Liddle 15. Thomas Mikaele 16. Josh Aloiai 17. Michael Chee-Kam
Referees: Gerard Sutton, Liam Kennedy; Sideline Officials: Kasey Badger, Clayton Sharpe; Video Referees: Jared Maxwell, Bryan Norrie;