They may have mended their working relationship, but Wests Tigers star Robbie Farah still won’t play 80 minutes under coach Jason Taylor this NRL season.
A reduction in interchange is likely to make coaches reconsider carrying a second hooker on their bench in 2016, but not Taylor, who is adamant the days of the 80-minute hookers are close to an end.
New buy Matt Ballin is likely to miss the opening few rounds of the competition as he continues to recover from an ACL tear, meaning promising rake Manaia Cherrington is a strong chance of winning a spot in the side’s season-opening clash with the Warriors.
Veteran Dene Halatau is another option for Taylor at the ruck.
Asked whether teams could afford to carry a utility under the new rules, Taylor said: “We will be. I think it’s important you keep the middle of the field fresh. It’s really hard in this day and age to be playing 80 minutes as a hooker when you’re not a big guy.”
Farah appeared certain to leave the club when he was given permission to leave in August, only for Taylor to include the NSW State of Origin hooker in his leadership group named in December.
He then guaranteed Farah the No.9 jumper for round one.
However with Ballin and Cherrington giving Taylor bona fide options at hooker, the 32-year-old Farah, whose playing time diminished under Taylor last season, is now unlikely to play 80 minutes consistently again.
Taylor said Ballin’s current injury meant he hadn’t been given selection trouble just yet.
“Matt’s not ready to play yet, so there’s no headache whatsoever at the moment,” Taylor said.
“We haven’t had that sort of depth at that position, and we know we’re going to lose Robbie for a period through the year (to State of Origin). It’s not a headache, it’s a really good strengthening of a really important position.”