With his side injury-ravaged and in a trough, Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor has challenged Robbie Farah to make a statement against nemesis Cameron Smith on Sunday at Leichhardt Oval.
Not only is the Tigers’ NRL clash with Melbourne bordering on must-win after four straight losses, it’s also personal for Farah as he faces off against the Queensland rake.
Just over six weeks out from the State of Origin series opener, NSW No.9 Farah has the chance to strike a psychological blow against the best dummy-half in the game.
After recovering from a knee injury which hampered his pre-season and kept him out of the first three rounds, Farah looked back to his best in last week’s 18-16 loss to Newcastle, playing 80 minutes for the first time this year.
Taylor said coming up against the Storm always produced the best from Farah because of the presence of Smith and implored his charge to make a point.
“It’s always a game that both of those two lift for,” Taylor said.
“And it will be a game Robbie wants to play well in because it’s a prelude to the Origin series.”
After going winless for a month, the loss of captain Aaron Woods is a huge blow with the side winning just 20 per cent (three from 15) of matches without him.
Woods’s absence was also compounded by forwards Sauaso Sue (concussion) and Jack Buchanan (ankle) being ruled out.
As well, outside backs David Nofoaluma (knee) and Kevin Naiqama (hamstring) are in doubt, with former Manly utility Michael Chee-Kam a possibility to fill in at centre and 29-year-old Papua New Guinea representative Rod Griffin a chance to make his NRL debut.
Despite losing four in a row, Fox Sports Stats show the Tigers have been one of the most-potent attacking sides this year.
The 11th-placed Tigers are second for tries scored with 4.2 per game, however this flies in the face of having the second-worst completion rate of 72.3 per cent, just behind St George Illawarra.
Taylor says those number prove his side aren’t that far off.
“We do feel like we’re close but we’re at the bottom of the table as far as completion rates go, which is putting pressure on our defence,” Taylor said.
“While there has been some good stuff, there’s been some bad stuff. At the moment, it’s either good or bad and we need to find some in between from time to time that will help us stay in games longer.”
STATS THAT MATTER:
* Of the Tigers’ 10 wins over Melbourne, eight have been at Leichhardt Oval
* The Tigers are on a four-game losing streak and last year they broke a five-game winless run with a 34-16 victory over the Storm
* Five of Melbourne’s six matches this season have been decided by eight points or less
Source: Fox Sports Stats