Jason Taylor insists the Wests Tigers belong in the upper echelon however they must turn around their dreadful record against the NRL’s best if they’re to prove it.
Heading into Sunday’s crunch clash with Canberra at Leichhardt Oval, the Tigers have won just three of 12 matches against teams in the top eight this season.
While Tigers coach Taylor has undoubtedly proved many critics wrong to guide the side within finals contention, their record against the competition’s elite sides illustrates just how far they have to go.
Of their three wins against top-eight teams, their 19-18 victory against Brisbane came when the Broncos were missing six of their biggest stars because of State of Origin duty.
“That’s irrelevant,” Taylor said of their poor record against top-eight teams.
“Last time we played here against the Cowboys, the way we played that day was superb and we’re looking for another performance like that.
“To finish strongly last week was really impressive so we’ll be ready.”
The Tigers received a boost on Saturday with skipper Aaron Woods cleared to play after being bed ridden all week with a virus.
Veteran Dene Halatau also looks likely to take his place despite coming down with the virus which swept through the Tigers camp this week, however back-rower Elijah Taylor is being monitored by club doctors.
The Tigers face an enormous task against Canberra, who are on a nine-game winning streak and obliterated them 60-6 when they last met in round eight.
The Raiders are set to finish in the top three for the first time since 1997 and if successful against the Tigers will notch 17 regular season wins for just the third time in their history.
They are also searching for their 10th straight victory for the third time in their history – having done it in 1989-90 and 1994-95 – and the first time to have won 10 on the trot in a single season.
“This is a massive test for us,” Taylor said.
“They’re fighting for a top two position and that’s not easy to do. We have the utmost respect for them and the way they play their footy.
STATS THAT MATTER
* The Tigers have won just one of their past four matches against the Raiders, a 20-18 win in round 22 last season.
* The Raiders have been the best attacking team in the competition this season, averaging almost 28 points per game, as well as busting the most tackles (30.6 per game) and making the second most linebreaks (5.6 per game).
* A win would see the Raiders become the second team this season to win 10 straight matches along with the Sharks. This would be just the fourth season where two teams have won 10 straight matches in the same year.