Ripe for return … Tigers back James Tedesco. Photo: Steve Christo
THEY went to the same high school and made their first-grade debuts at the age of 19 as fullbacks, but new Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter does not see the likeness between himself and James Tedesco.
''Unfortunately I don't see too many similarities because he's a lot better than what I was,'' Potter, the two-time premiership winner, said on Tuesday of Tedesco, a fellow graduate of St Gregory's College in Campbelltown.
''He's certainly bigger, he's faster, he's stronger. He's had a tough run with a knee reconstruction after his first game in the NRL but he's bounced back in pre-season and done very, very well. I'm happy with the way he's going and I hope he's happy with the way he's going.''
This Friday night in Bathurst, Tedesco will put on the Tigers jersey for the first time since his knee buckled under him half an hour into his debut at Leichhardt Oval in the opening round last season. His goals are understandably a little subdued.
''Just getting through round one is a goal for me,'' Tedesco said. ''I'm not aiming for first grade in round one though, just to play good footy and hopefully get a call-up. I'm pretty much just looking at playing the full season injury-free.''
Tedesco has not let slip the rare opportunity of playing under someone regarded as one of the best fullbacks of the past 50 years.
''[Potter's] given me a few tips and advice with things I can improve and work on, it's really helpful,'' the 20-year-old Camden Rams junior said. ''He played fullback and knows the game.''
Potter said Tedesco would get ''half a game and feel his way around'' on Friday night against Penrith in a trial of combined sides made up of players from the NRL, NSW Cup and under-20s.
Having grown up in Menangle, just south of Campbelltown, Tedesco is eyeing off a shot at playing in front of his home crowd, possibly in round two when the Tigers take on Penrith at Campbelltown Sports Stadium.
''Leichhardt was a great debut, the crowd was amazing, but to have a home game at Campbelltown would be awesome,'' he said.
''When games were on here growing up, I always tried to be there.''
Potter grew up just down the road from Menangle in Camden.
He and new Roosters coach Trent Robinson join a line of St Gregory's old boys, including Jack Gibson, Tim Sheens, Jason Taylor, Ivan Henjak, Daniel Anderson and Peter Mulholland, to coach in the NRL. ''I don't know why there's been so many, but I think it's probably the passion the school has had, and I think Peter Mulholland had a lot to do with the passion,'' Potter said.
''He coached me there and that effort put in through the school is still paying off.
''It's a good stamping ground for rugby league and other sports, too.''
Mulholland - considered by many as the king of schoolboy coaches after guiding St Gregory's to four Commonwealth Bank Cup trophies - recruited Potter to the school.
''He was always going to be a good coach and he'll do a great job at the Tigers. He was coached by Warren Ryan and Brian Smith and he took a lot from them.'' Mulholland said.