Mitch Henderson's inclusion in Greater Northern's Laurie Daley Cup squad this season has set a performance benchmark, says new Tigers coach Tom Learoyd-Lahrs, with the No 6's attacking game on point in an opening-round 32-4 defeat of the Newcastle Knights at Maitland on Sunday.
Henderson - a member of the Knights side who won the Harold Matthews Cup last season - scored two tries in what former Blues enforcer Learoyd-Lahrs described as a "pretty solid effort for our first proper game". Defensively, the under-18 Tigers were outstanding, he said.
Learoyd-Lahrs - in his debut Tigers stint after steering the Bears' under-18 outfit to the 2019 premiership - said co-captain Henderson imbued his teammates with confidence and elevated their form because they had to keep up with him.
"And that's what we do: we look good when we're playing fast, and he's [Henderson] just got that extra gear," the ex-Raiders star said. "He plays really fast [with a] strong shape.
"The blokes around him, they've got to be on the ball, otherwise they don't push on the pass or they don't get there in time. So it's really good for us to have him."
That high-tempo game was most pronounced in the second half, as the Tigers quickly extended their 10-4 half-time lead and amassed four tries - to give them six for the match. Henderson also booted three conversions.
It was in the second half, Learoyd-Lahrs said, that the Tigers showed "they're really, really hard to defend against".
However, it was the team's defensive effort that most impressed the former forward - describing it as "just awesome".
"And we maintained that through to the end," he said. "Defending our own line right at the end was their best defensive effort of the match."
"That attitude, if we can keep that throughout the next five weeks, we'll be really, really hard to beat."
The Tigers play St George Illawarra at Campbelltown Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday. The Dragons beat Penrith 20-12 in round one. It is a five-round comp and then finals.
In the earlier match at Maitland Sports Ground on Sunday, Greater Northern's under-16 Andrew Johns Cup side were beaten 18-12 by the Knights.
TIGERS 32 (M Henderson 2, B Ginman, B Reid, S Pianko, L Ball tries; Henderson 3, Pianko goals) d KNIGHTS 4 (A Jenkins try)