Jason Taylor has laid out the challenge to Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, telling the Wests Tigers young halves to prove themselves with the pressure on.
Brooks will make a timely comeback from a knee complaint when the Tigers’ NRL season goes on the line against Penrith at Pepper Stadium on Friday night.
Of the Tigers’ current squad, just seven members have played finals football and coach Taylor is applying the blow torch as he seeks to take his young side to the next level.
Brooks and Moses’ jobs will be made harder with fullback James Tedesco almost certain to miss the rest of the year with a broken jaw and Taylor said it shapes as the biggest test of their young careers.
“Playing in semi-finals is something we haven’t done for a few years so the young players in our team haven’t tasted it,” Taylor said.
“We got a dose of it the last couple of weeks and that is to play under the pressure of needing to perform and needing to get a result.
“Those games are big and we look forward to them.”
Tedesco’s injury will see Jordan Rankin move to fullback and Josh Addo-Carr onto the wing.
The Panthers could welcome back Chris Grevsmuhl from an elbow injury.
A loss to the seventh-placed Panthers could see the Tigers drop to three points behind eighth spot with two games remaining, a big deficit to reel in.
The Panthers victory would almost certainly seal a finals berth however Anthony Griffin’s side face another pressure test next week against eighth-placed Gold Coast.
“It’s a semi-final game,” Taylor said.
“The great thing is we’re playing in games where we need to win. And I like that – it adds some pressure to what we’re doing because that’s where we want to be.
“We want to be playing in semi-finals, we want to be learning about games where the pressure is on and we need to win.”
STATS THAT MATTER
* Four of the past six matches between the sides have been decided by 10 points or less.
* Fifteen of Penrith’s 21 matches this season have been decided by eight points or less. They have only won four times this season by more than eight points.
* The Tigers have been the best attacking team in the opening 20 minutes this season, scoring 144 points.
Source: Fox Sports Stats