Jason Taylor knows what to expect from Wests Tigers reject Martin Taupau on Monday night, but is less certain about what else – or who else – Manly will throw at his side at Leichhardt Oval.
Taupau will line up against his old NRL club for the first time since the Tigers let the New Zealand international go with a year remaining on his contract.
Amid almost inevitable speculation that Taupau fell out with Taylor, the official line from the Tigers remains they released the destructive forward to ease salary-cap constraints.
The release came after Taupau made it clear to the Tigers he intended on leaving the club once his contract expired.
Either way, Manly were happy to add an enforcer to their depleted forward stocks and Taupau will doubtless have a point to prove against his former teammates.
“I’m pretty sure he’ll be pretty pumped up,” said Tigers halfback Luke Brooks.
“Especially after last week; they obviously didn’t have their best game (in a 28-6 loss to Canterbury).
“So it’s going to be a tough match. He obviously loves playing here at Leichhardt. It’ll be for the opposite team so I don’t know how the fans will treat him, but he’ll be pumped up.”
Taylor is bracing for “a lot of aggression” from Taupau.
“That’s what he plays with and what we’re expecting,” he said.
“Interesting that he’s been named in the back row. I’m not sure that he’s played there very often in the past.
“So that’ll be a change for him.”
Taylor suspects Manly counterpart Trent Barrett may also tinker with the side he named on Tuesday, despite the Sea Eagles coach claiming on Friday that star fullback Brett Stewart definitely wouldn’t play – and may not for several weeks as he recovers from his nagging hamstring injury.
“I imagine Brett Stewart’s pushing to play there somewhere, so we’ll see what their team is an hour before kick-off,” Taylor said.
“But the one that’s been named is certainly one that we’re wary of at this stage.
“But it’s really hard to predict how they’re going to play. There’s a number of changes to their team and obviously they wouldn’t be comfortable with the way things went last week.
“So we’re expecting a really strong performance from them and a really aggressive performance.
“The Bulldogs probably showed them the way to play last week and I think they’ll take a fair bit of inspiration out of that and say we’ve got to be ready.”
“They will play with I’m sure a lot more commitment and a lot more energy right from the start.”