The Wests Tigers will seek to break a worrying recent record at their spiritual home of Leichhardt Oval on Sunday to keep their NRL finals hopes alive.
Equal last on the premiership ladder, the Tigers need to win at least seven of their final 10 matches this season to force their way into the playoffs.
That run will need to start at Leichhardt in round 16 this weekend against Penrith at a ground they have won only once at in the past six games. Wests have already lost to Canberra and Gold Coast at the suburban venue in 2015 and are staring down the barrel of three successive defeats in their first three games at Leichhardt in a season for the first time since 2003.
After starting the season in promising fashion, the Tigers have struggled to maintain consistency. Their big win over South Sydney two weeks ago was followed by a disappointing loss to equal-last Manly last start.
Tigers coach Jason Taylor is banking on the Leichhardt crowd giving his side a boost against the Panthers despite their poor recent record there.
“The field looks great, hopefully we will get a nice day and the fans get in and support us,” Taylor told reporters on Saturday.
“When the crowd is close to the referee, you might get some decisions that are influenced by the crowd that is always part of the game.
“It is a really important game. We are having some great moments in games but we are not doing that across the 80 minutes which is the challenge for us.”
Skipper Robbie Farah will play his first game for the joint venture since suffering a shoulder injury in Origin I.
“Robbie has done really well. He will start the game – that is great for us, back at Leichhardt where he loves to play,” Taylor said.
“The shoulder is nowhere near 100 per cent, but it is good enough to play with a needle. He will have a good break between Sunday and Origin III.
“He is a tough guy. When it is an experienced guy like Robbie, he is ready to play and he showed that in Origin II.”
Former Kangaroos winger Josh Mansour returns from injury for the Panthers in a big boost to their chances.
* After winning their opening two matches, the Tigers have struggled since with just three wins from 12 matches, sitting the highest of the bottom-four teams on 12 points thanks only to superior points’ differential
* The Panthers’ attack has struggled all season, ranking near the bottom of almost every category. Since round nine, their attack has plummeted, averaging just 9.6 points per game, 1.6 tries a game, 3.2 linebreaks per game and 18.6 tackle busts a game (by far the fewest of any team in each category)
* James Tedesco has been the Tigers’ shining light this season with 11 tries, equal third highest in the competition, and 86 tackle busts, by far the most of any player
Statistics courtesy of Fox Sports Stats