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Waratahs turn to rugby league legend ahead of rival clash with Reds

By AAP
(Photo by Renee McKay/Getty Images)

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Rugby league legend Steve Roach looms as a secret weapon as the NSW Waratahs strive to turn Leichhardt Oval into their own fortress this year.

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After opening their campaign with a drought-breaking 40-10 win over Fijian Drua at CommBank Stadium, the Waratahs face Australia’s defending champion Queensland Reds in a step up at Leichhardt on Friday night.

The Reds showdown marks the first of five games this season for the Waratahs at the long-time spiritual home of the NRL’s Wests Tigers.

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The only other home game for the Tahs will be at the SCG so it’s no surprise coach Darren Coleman is eager to make Leichhardt enemy territory for opposition teams.

“The ground is close (to the crowd) – that grandstand’s right on you, the hill’s awesome and it’s accessible from all over the city,” Coleman said of one of Sydney’s most boutique ovals.

“I reckon we can turn that into a bit of a fortress.”

Enter “Blocker” Roach, the former Balmain, NSW State of Origin and Australian cult hero who Coleman has invited in to the Waratahs’ dressing room.

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Coleman hopes Roach can offer some inspiration for his young charges and some tips on how to make Leichhardt feel like home while the Sydney Football Stadium is being rebuilt.

In addition to the Reds, the Waratahs will host the Western Force, Hurricanes, Blues and 2021 Super Rugby Aotearoa winners the Crusaders at Leichhardt.

“It’d be my dream if we can fill those pubs around Balmain this year and get them rolling in (to Leichhardt),” Coleman said.

“If you get 10 or 12,000, it’ll be like when Benny (Elias) and ‘Blocker’ were playing (for the Tigers).”

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While thrilled to finally snap their 13-match losing run with their convincing win over the Drua, assistant coach Pauli Taumoepeau insists no one is getting carried away.

Taumoepeau says the Waratahs are well aware the Reds are another “step up” in class.

“There’s no sort of bounce in our step. We understand that it’s only one game and we played Fijian Drua, it was their first game, so we’re not getting ahead of ourselves,” he said.

“But it’s better to turn up on a Monday when things go right.

“It’s like a monkey off our back so now we can get on with the rest of it.

“Like everyone was talking about when are you going to win again, the winless season (from last year) and what-not.

“Now that that’s happened, it’s almost like it’s a weight off our shoulders.”

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