Wests Tigers coach Michael Potter admits he will not know exactly what effect the death of young forward Mosese Fotuaika has had on the club’s players until after Monday night’s match against Newcastle at Hunter Stadium.
Potter, who will be in charge of his first NRL match after seven seasons of coaching in Super League, is looking forward to finally seeing how the Tigers perform in a premiership fixture after a torrid off-season.
But he is also interested in how the players cope mentally with the sudden death of 20-year-old Fotuaika, whose funeral they attended in Brisbane last Thursday.
”We paid our respects on Thursday to a guy that we all had a real good feel about,” Potter said. ”It’s no one’s fault, but how guys handle it away from here I don’t know. When they have been here they have been very enthusiastic and in tune with what we want to do but when they are on their own it could be different.
”Everyone handles that stuff a little bit different, some express it externally and some sit behind their feelings. It depends on how close you were with the player as well.”
The NRL allowed the Tigers to perform only minimal media duties last week and the club has offered players access to counselling. Potter said the players had appeared focused at training and he was hoping for a strong performance against the Knights. ”They trained like they were pretty enthusiastic but I don’t know what is going to happen – whether it is all going to come to a head and it is going to be bad … we won’t know until the 80 minutes are up.
”I can’t say we have got everything right on that side but we are trying to cover all bases with what we can do and [chief executive] Stephen Humphreys, along with the coaching staff, have been doing everything possible to ensure everyone gets an opportunity to express their feelings and to feel comfortable with what’s happened.
”We want to mark our respect to Mosese but not get distracted from what our job is. There is going to be a moment’s silence before the game so it will be in the back of the guys’ minds, but we will try not to let that distract us.” Potter said prop Aaron Woods had passed a fitness test and would start on the interchange bench, with newcomer Bodene Thompson playing on Sunday for Wests Tigers’ NSW Cup team in their match against Cronulla.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.