Mitchell Moses has demonstrated he’s ready to lead the Wests Tigers to a prosperous new era after guiding them over the line in their 34-26 NRL win over the Warriors.
Moses proved the difference on Saturday as the Tigers fought off a spectacular Warriors comeback to open their season with a morale-boosting victory in front of 10,907 at Campbelltown Stadium.
The 21-year-old playmaker set up two of the side’s five first-half tries, had a hand in another and guided the team around the park with aplomb without suspended halves partner Luke Brooks and injured NSW State of Origin hooker Robbie Farah.
With fill-in No.7 Jack Littlejohn often slotting in at hooker, he was at times the side’s lone playmaker on the field and, with his hands on the wheel, the Tigers turned on some entertaining and often spectacular football.
He produced inch-perfect passes to put Tim Simona and David Nofoaluma over and helped orchestrate James Tedesco’s long-range effort as the home side ran out to a 28-4 halftime lead.
While the heavily hyped playmaker had sometimes been maligned for not fulfilling on his substantial promise over his first two seasons, he demonstrated he was capable of great performances.
“Mitch has worked so hard at it and he was such a rookie this time last year. He’d only played a handful of games,” coach Jason Taylor said.
“He played every minute of every game last year.
“We made it hard for him early on because he wasn’t getting to play the footy that he really likes but he earned the right to do that and he’s doing that now.”
While it was a positive start for the Tigers following their horror off-season, Taylor would still have his concerns.
The Shaun Johnson-led Warriors stormed back into the contest, at one point piling on three tries in nine minutes to get within two before a last-minute Tedesco four-pointer sealed it.
The recruitment of internationals Issac Luke and Roger-Tuivasa Sheck was supposed to herald a new dawn for the infamously inconsistent Warriors but under-fire coach Andrew McFadden conceded they were still lacking a winning mentality.
“It’s a mindset thing – it’s a more-aggressive approach,” McFadden said.
“We’ve got some momentum now and momentum at this time of year is pretty critical. Once we got going, it was pretty hard to stop – just like they were in the first half.”
In further bad news for the Warriors, luckless back-rower Ben Henry suffered a likely season-ending dislocated kneecap.
The one-time Kiwi Test representative twice underwent knee reconstructions on the same left leg over the past three years and McFadden said his prognosis was looking grim.