When Wests Tigers take to the field at ANZ Stadium around 4:30pm on Saturday, it’ll be an almost unrecognisable side from the one that finished the 2017 season.
From the 17 players that faced the Warriors in Round 26 last year, only seven players will line up against the Sydney Roosters on Saturday and only five will be in the same position as they were last year.
Esan Marsters, Kevin Naiqama, Malakai Watene-Zelezniak, Luke Brooks, Tui Lolohea, Matt Eisenhuth and Alex Twal are the familiar faces for Wests Tigers, who will instead have six club debutants run out — Russell Packer, Ben Matulino, Corey Thompson, Josh Reynolds, Robbie Rochow and Pita Godinet.
As a club, there’s no hiding the poor record that Wests Tigers have against the boys from Bondi, with the Roosters prevailing in every counter between the two sides since the 2012 season.
However, the history suggests that a new-look side might prove the difference for Wests Tigers.
Only once before have Wests Tigers had more club debutants in a single game than Saturday’s — the season-opener in 2004 that saw Tim Sheens’ side take on the Cronulla Sharks at ANZ Stadium.
On that day, incredibly seven new faces took to the field in Wests Tigers colours for the first time, with Brett Hodgson, Scott Prince, Shane Elford, Scott Sattler, Ben Reynolds, Nick Graham and Jason Moodie all helping steer the home side to a hard-fought 12-6 victory.
And while one game might not be much of a sample size, when we look a little closer, the record is equally as strong for Wests Tigers when four or more new faces feature in the side at the same time.
In 2002, five new players debuted for Wests Tigers in Round 1 against the Bulldogs — Ahmad Bajouri, Robert Mears, Chris Paterson, Steve Trindall and Troy Wozniak — as Wests Tigers won 28-22.
In 2006, there were four new faces from the Grand Final winning side the year before — Keith Galloway, Jamahl Lolesi, Ryan O’Hara and Michael Crockett helping Wests Tigers to a thrilling 24-15 win over the St. George-Illawarra Dragons in the season opener.
Four new players also debuted in Round 1 of the 2012 season: James Tedesco, Matt Bell, Tom Humble and Adam Blair all making their first appearance as Wests Tigers snuck home against the Cronulla Sharks.
It might not be much, but there’s something to be said for the way in which a new-look side can come together almost instantly throughout Wests Tigers history — will we see it again this Saturday?