NRL: Blocker's blasts rev up Tigers' pack

By Roje Adaimy

Club legend's role as forwards coach has big men up front running scared and adding bite.

Wests Tigers forward Aaron Woods. Photo / Getty Images
Wests Tigers forward Aaron Woods. Photo / Getty Images

Steve "Blocker" Roach brings himself close to tears with his pep talks, but his mere presence has some at the Wests Tigers scared into submission.

The Balmain living legend's arrival as the club's forwards coach in 2014 seems to have injected some bite back into what was a toothless pack last NRL season when they finished second-last.

The man who carried much of the load in 2013, Aaron Woods, has been in career-best form this year and - with the backing of Keith Galloway, Marty Taupau, James Gavet and Ava Seumanufagai - has helped the Tigers outmuscle some of the game's biggest packs in South Sydney and Manly.

They now sit third on the ladder with four wins from six games and have the chance to go further when they face fellow surprise packets Parramatta on Easter Monday.

"I think we're working as a team in the forward pack," Woods said. "It helps when myself and Keithy go off and then get blokes like Taupau and Gavet and Ava come on, we don't lose the momentum going forward so it's really good."

Woods said Roach's old school mentality had rubbed off on to the Tigers' front row.

"He's definitely old school. He doesn't even worry about the backs, he doesn't even talk to them I don't think," Woods said with a laugh.

"He just comes in and just talks to you. When he's talking to you, it looks like he's about to cry and the goosebumps get up.

"He's just real passionate about his rugby league."

Teammate Adam Blair agreed, but said "Blocker" Roach - banned in 2008 for abusing referee Tony Archer while NSW Origin assistant coach - still had the scare factor.

"He comes in and when we do our video sessions, he stands in front of us and we all get around Block," the forward said. "He just gets there and yells things at us and everyone's eyes are up. We don't say much - he does all the talking and we just shake our heads.

"He's a scary guy when he gets going but everyone respects Blocker and all the boys love to get around him. We love having his chats."

Woods, hoping to earn a State of Origin recall with his top club form, said it was nice to hear the plaudits for his once-struggling side but admitted more work was needed.

"If someone gives us a wrap, we're happy for it. But we don't really buy into it. We're just more worried about getting the Tigers on the front foot."

Woods and Blair were confident 22-year-old Joel Luani would step up in the absence of hooker Robbie Farah, who is set to miss up to six weeks after dislocating his elbow.

Meanwhile, Liam Fulton sat out yesterday's training session with a suspected shoulder problem, but the forward was confident he'd be fit for Easter Monday's round-seven match.


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