Russell Packer is a certainty to return from a knee injury for Wests Tigers’ NRL clash on Thursday.The Wests Tigers are hoping their first home game at Leichhardt Oval will snap them out of a worrying form slump that has them on the cusp of dropping out of the NRL top eight.
After winning five of their opening six matches, the bubble has burst on the early-season surprise packets with three straight losses.
However the return of co-captain Russell Packer, as well as veteran Benji Marshall’s first home game at Leichhardt since leaving the club in 2014, could be just the tonic for Ivan Cleary’s side.
Their losing streak has coincided with a knee injury that forced Packer out of the past four matches.
“When you can’t affect the result, it’s always harder to watch. But coming back this Thursday I’ve got the opportunity to try and help and do my role for the team,” Packer said on Tuesday.
“I’m looking forward to playing again and moreso running out onto Leichhardt Oval for the first time as a Wests Tiger. I can’t wait for that.”
After the Tigers scored shock wins over Melbourne twice, the Sydney Roosters and Parramatta over the opening six weeks, Packer admitted the side may have gotten swept up in their success.
He implored his teammates to switch their focus back to a defence that leaked less than 10 points a game up until round six, and then 24 points over their current losing run.
“Just because you start the season well doesn’t give you the right to keep winning,” he said.
“I think maybe we’ve fallen into that trap a little bit where maybe we’re expecting to win games that we probably should’ve.
“When we started the season, our style of play was built on our defence and working hard for each other. We can look at that and try and use those characteristics as a building block.”
Second-rower Michael Chee Kam said Cleary believed the team had been guilty of ill-discipline and strayed from a defensive game plan that had the team humming early in the year.
“We take it as a wake-up call. No better place to turn it around than Leichhardt this week,” he said.
Tigers co-captain Chris Lawrence is the only injury worry for the Cowboys game due to concussion.