Amidst the drama the Wests Tigers have faced this season in the form of the Jason Taylor-Robbie Farah feud (or is that just the outside world reading too much into things?) has been the rapid rise of the joint venture’s brilliant fullback, James Tedesco.
We all knew about the young, bearded Italian Stallion prior to this season, but 2016 has proven his real breakout year, culminating in selection for NSW. Only injury kept him from making his debut in Origins I and II; there was always a suggestion that Panthers custodian and fellow mate-against-mate debutant Matt Moylan was only keeping the spot warm until Teddy was right to go. In the ultimate sign of respect for the 23-year-old firsttimer, the Maroons admitted they’d spent considerable time focussing on just Tedesco in field sessions in preparation for the ANZ Stadium deadrubber. They pay attention to all rival rookies, but they were clearly aware of Tedesco’s threat around the ruck as well as his ball-playing brilliance.
He has developed into one of the genuine game-breakers in the NRL. Tedesco’s solid 180cm x 93kg frame allows him to gain a vicious head of steam before he either charges on inside balls or down the middle out of broken play. The sight of him busting tackles and chasing down kicks is filling more and more highlight reels. That he’s camped in the NRL’s top ten for tries and linebreaks should surprise no one. In defence, he already displays the bravery of a hardened, veteran No.1, appearing to be frightened of nothing or no one, whether underneath a bomb or under attack from an opposition raid. Should the Tigers reach this year’s play-offs, wait for Tedesco to explode into action.