Look out Robbie! Liddle gunning for Tigers role
WESTS Tigers hooker Jacob Liddle is looking to muscle his way into Robbie Farah's No.9 jersey, with the injury-plagued rake beefing up in the off-season and thriving under new coach Michael Maguire's "hands on" approach.
The Tigers have long viewed Liddle as Farah's heir apparent but a spate of injuries, including a double shoulder reconstruction in 2017, and the former Kangaroo hooker's return to the club last season have prevented it from happening.
Liddle, who has only played 27 games in three seasons, hopes the added bulk helps stave off injury.
"I've been working with our trainers to put on a little bit of weight. It's the heaviest I have ever been at 90 kilograms and I have put on around five kilos so far," said Liddle, who battled through a sternum injury last season.
"I've been eating lots and making sure I get a lot of protein, making sure that I'm consistently eating.
"It has been a struggle because I have never really been able to put on weight.
"I think it helps the mind to feel confident and I can feel the difference in strength during wrestle and I still have my speed which is a good thing."
Liddle, who is off contract at the end of the year, is no longer willing to play apprentice in waiting and wants Farah's starting spot.
"That's my goal to get that number nine jersey. I just have to keep working on my game and hopefully that opportunity comes sooner rather than later," he said.
The durable Farah turned 35 on Wednesday and is heading into his 18th season of NRL.
While he's looking to claim Farah's starting role, the 22-year-old Liddle credits the veteran for helping him in the build up to the new season.
"He's been really good to me this pre-season and he is helping me out with a lot of things in my game and I have been trying to push him too," Liddle said.
"I learn a lot just by watching him. He's one of the best ball players in the game."
Liddle's also keen to learn the secret to Farah's longevity.
"There's all the things he does off the field, like when it comes to recovery and all the extras he does. It's always good to have someone like that to look up too. It helps you learn why he's been around the game so long," he said.
Liddle credits Maguire for transforming the Tigers squad into the fittest they have been.
"My fitness levels and strength has gone through the roof which has been good," he said.
Liddle says while Maguire and former coach Ivan Cleary have very different approaches to training, the side has transitioned well under the premiership-winning coach.
"They're totally different coaches you can't compare them. I think Madge is a lot more hands on and he gets involved in training and he pushes the boys to train harder," Liddle said.
"He's a strong bastard."