Dragons wary of the Packer effect

LEADER: Russell Packer has had a huge impact on the Tigers this season. Picture: AAP
LEADER: Russell Packer has had a huge impact on the Tigers this season. Picture: AAP

FATHER, enforcer, scholar, former prison inmate – Tigers prop Russell Packer where’s many hats.

By now, a decade into his NRL career, he’s received enough attention – good and bad – that he prefers to go about his business quietly. And yet, he remains one of the game’s most intriguing characters.

Coaches and teammates laud his leadership qualities, words like “honest” “opinionated” “a strong presence” “uncompromising” and “intelligent” invariably feature in all accounts.

The former Dragon will face his former club, where he rebuilt his life and career, for the first time on Sunday and his former teammates know how formidable the Tigers are with him up front.

“He’s pretty strong-headed Russ, he is a good leader in his own way, and in a different way,” Dragons skipper Gareth Widdop said.

“Everyone knows Russ’s journey and what he’s had to go through and a lot of people respect him for that.

“He’s been around and had to deal with things a lot of normal people don’t have to deal with. I think that helps him in his leadership. 

“He’s a pretty big presence, he’s a loud voice and he’s very, very intelligent, especially for a big front-rower. Certainly he's a very tough player who works really hard and you can see he’s been great for the Tigers.

“They’ve got a youngish forward pack as well and he’s gone in there and is doing a great job.

“He’s coming up against his old club and whenever you do that you want to perform well so he’ll be coming to Kogarah on Sunday and trying to do that. I’ll be steering clear of him for sure.”

While many tipped the Tigers to finish with the wooden spoon this season, they remain in the race for a finals berth, though those hopes will go on the line against the Dragons on Sunday.

Veteran Dragons winger Jason Nightingale has no doubt his former Kiwi Test teammate’s presence has played a major role in the turnaround.

“I’m not surprised at all by what he’s been able to do with the young players there at the Tigers,” Nightingale.

“He’s such an influential player around the place, he works very hard and sets a good example in that aspect. 

“He’s a very uncompromising bloke, the sort of guy that, as soon as you go out on the field with him, you know what he’s going to do.

“He doesn’t take a backward step and that gives you a lot of confidence playing alongside him.” 

Packer will no doubt be looking to haunt his former side on Sunday but his impact, particularly off the field continue to have an impact at the Dragons according to young prop Blake Lawrie

“He’s a tough fella Russ, he’s really experienced in the game, he helped me a lot,” Lawrie said.

“He understands people. If you go up top him one and one, you can talk to him for half an hour or an hour about all sorts of things, on and off the field.

“He’s got a really smart head on his shoulders. If you need someone to talk to about things, he’s that sort of person. He’s a team person and a great guy.”