Former NSW great Steve Roach has tipped young prop Aaron Woods to have a stand-out State of Origin series after he struggled last year.
NSW great Steve Roach is tipping Wests Tigers prop Aaron Woods to enjoy a break-out State of Origin series this year.
Woods, who’s one of five players in the Blues squad with less than five Origin appearances to his name, has been named in the starting line-up by coach Laurie Daley for a series opener for the first time.
Last year, Woods was drafted in for his debut for game two in Brisbane after James Tamou had been stood down following his arrest for drink-driving.
It proved to be a baptism of fire for the 23-year-old who failed to replicate his outstanding club form by clocking up just 36 metres from five runs at Suncorp Stadium.
He fared little better in the decider in Sydney making 20 metres from only four runs as the Blues slumped to a 12-10 defeat and an eighth successive series loss.
But after a great start to the 2014 NRL season where he’s been the outstanding forward for a rejuvenated Tigers side, Roach now believes Woods is now ready make his mark at the highest level.
“He’ll be a lot better for the run and he knows what to expect now,” Roach told AAP.
“I reckon he is really going to blossom in this side.”
Like Woods, Roach – who has been working with the Blues squad as a mentor to the forwards – made his debut in Brisbane 30 years ago and still remembers how tough it was.
“It was just about survival in the front row of Origin back then,” he said.
“But once you knew what to expect and how much faster it is, it helps massively.”
Woods admits he was overawed by the whole Origin experience in 2013 but feels more comfortable of his place in the squad, revealing he’s spent time working on improving the mental side of his game.
“I bought into the week too much last year,” Woods said.
“I was focusing too much on things away from the footy … listening to too much of the hype.
“It’s 10 days talking about the game before it’s even happened and I’d spent a lot of energy before we’d even played the game and didn’t do myself justice.”
Woods said he’d prepared for this season by working with an unnamed friend, who’s helped him find ways to take his mind away from the game when he’s not training and playing.
“He’s helped me a lot, he does work with other players in different sports,” he said.
“I don’t want to name him, but he’s been really helpful.
“I see him once or twice a week and if I am feeling out of the loop he settles me down.
“This is a hard sport it’s up and down a lot.”