Returning to the dressing sheds with a smile as bright as day after his side’s win last Monday, Sharks forward Sam Tagataese also sported obvious bumps and bruises after a physical encounter with a big Cowboys pack.
Though the black and blue didn’t detract from the evident elation amongst the squad, the 29-year-old forward says he enjoyed a break from action over the Bye weekend in Round 15.
Now rested and raring to go against another mammoth challenge in the Warriors’ big men this weekend, Tagataese says he – and his fellow Sharks forwards – are looking forward to the task that awaits
“It’s not going to be easy, they’ve got some big forwards there, led by (Ben) Matulino. They run hard, they run straight … we’ve got to front up,” Tagataese said.
“They provide some quick play the balls, we’ve got to get up for it like we did against the Cowboys.
“But we always look forward to the challenge, especially against big boys like that. You always want to challenge yourself against the biggest, and they don’t come much bigger than the Warriors’ pack.”
Standing at 193cm tall, Matulino trounces the scales at close to 110kg also.
But no small man himself, Tagataese told www.sharks.com.au he knows all too well of the size and the challenge that Matulino and the Warriors’ pack will mount this Saturday night.
“I went to school with Benny back in Wellington, so I know him pretty well,” Tagataese laughed.
“I’m a little bit older than him, but he’s still someone whose game I look at closely. He’s definitely a good player, he lays the platform well.
“We’ll need to wrap up his offload, he’s definitely a key player for them.”
While rated highly amongst his peers, Matulino arguably embodies the Warriors’ enigmatic style that makes it so tough for opposition players and coaches to gauge their form.
“That may come down to them being too comfortable, to them playing what comes natural to them, or to them moving away from what they set out to do,” Tagataese said.
“But then in saying that, they’ve got the likes of Ryan Hoffman who have played in some successful teams.
“We’re preparing for them to be at their best this weekend, that’s all we can do.”
Riding the wave of some impressive form at Southern Cross Group Stadium this season, the Sharks are again hopeful of playing in front of a packed house again this weekend.
And in summing up the importance of the work of the Sharks supporters this season, Tagataese gave a short – but poignant – assessment of the role that the Members and fans had played in seeing the side towards a win in Round 14.
“It was vital,” he said.
“Especially when the game got tough (versus the Cowboys). We can feel their vibe, we can feel their support and their energy.
“We play for ourselves and for our team, but most importantly we play for them.
“When they get behind us, we go to another level. Hopefully the stands are full again on Saturday night.”