General Tigers pay heavy price for loss

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Tigers pay heavy price for loss
By Steve Mascord in Leeds
February 6, 2006

STAR Wests Tigers back rower Chris Heighington was last night rated "no chance" of being fit for the start of the NRL premiership after undergoing surgery on a fractured eye socket in Leeds.

In a major blow to the joint-venture side's premiership defence, Heighington will stay in Britain for at least a week after copping a stray elbow from Bradford replacement forward Joe Vagana in the Bulls' 30-10 World Club Challenge victory at Galpharm Stadium.

He underwent surgery on his right eye socket at Leeds infirmary at 7pm on Saturday night and will spend the week with former teammate Mark O'Neill, now with the Rhinos.

"I would say he would be no chance of playing - it's a four to six-week injury," Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens said at the team hotel.

"He has to recover, get himself back into the rhythm - I would say we'll be without him for those early games."

Heighington, travelling on a British passport, has relatives in the north of England he has never met - and which his injury prevented him meeting on the weekend.

Other Wests Tigers injuries, including Liam Fulton (corked thigh), Shannon McDonnell (hamstring) and Anthony Laffranchi (hamstring), could cost those players pre-season appearances but all should be fit for round one against St George Illawarra.

The NRL premiers were subdued over the weekend as they picked over the wreckage of their five tries-to-two loss, Sheens declaring his side would not go into the new season with the "benchmark" tag premiers usually carry.

"No ... my attitude to it is we're just looking to compete to make the play-offs," he said.

"Some teams might try and beat us because we're defending champions but I don't think it will be an issue for a lot of them.
"I think we've still got a bit to prove. If we had nine internationals and we won the comp comfortably like Canterbury the year before ..."

The performance of Bradford prop Stuart Fielden, who played the entire 80 minutes, scoring two tries and having a third disallowed, continued to draw praise from the vanquished Australians over the weekend.

But Fielden said he would be playing out the remaining two years of his contract at the Bulls, despite being heavily linked to the Gold Coast for 2007.

"It's all very flattering but it's just talk at this stage," he said. "I have my testimonial coming up and another year on my contract after that so we'll see what my options are afterwards."

Stunned Wests Tigers prop Ryan O'Hara said of his rival: "I want what he's having."

And Sheens joined the chorus of plaudits, saying: "He's England's number one prop and I would say he'd get a run with any NRL side."

Bulls coach Brian Noble, meanwhile, revealed he showed his side videos of five Wests Tigers games from the end of last season in a bid to highlight their vulnerability if dominated in the ruck.

And he raised concerns expressed by North Queensland coach Graham Murray before last year's grand final - that Wests Tigers players surrender in tackles more than other teams.

"We knew they were quick and they were fast and they were agile - and quick in finding the floor," Noble said.

"We were belting people and once you do that, you get to enjoy that part of the game.

"Obviously they didn't have Benji Marshall - every team needs a Benji Marshall, a get-out-of-jail card."

The joint-venture side planned a sightseeing tour of London before flying out for Australia.

"In a week's time when the disappointment is gone - the experience is going to still be very enriching for us as a club," chief executive Steve Noyce said.

The Daily Telegraph


at least the warriors aren't the only ones having injury problems

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