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Sport Cini delivers goods in memorable NRL debut

21:40  02 may  2021
21:40  02 may  2021 Source:   aap.com.au

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Zac Cini realised a lifelong dream of debuting for Wests Tigers in the NRL, but still reckons his mates had a better Sunday at WIN Stadium.

a man holding a football ball: Zac Cini has made a memorable NRL debut in the Wests Tigers win over St George Illawarra. © Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS Zac Cini has made a memorable NRL debut in the Wests Tigers win over St George Illawarra.

"You could hear them, definitely," Cini said.

"I got about 20 tickets for family and all my mates just organised a bus.

"I think there was about 50 of them that jumped on the bus and sat in that corner."

"I think they had a better day than me"

Cini's red mullet and his busload of mates was the sideshow of the Tigers' crucial 16-8 win over St George Illawarra on Sunday.

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His debut didn't capture the same headlines as Michael Maguire's crucial win as coach, just a week after the knives were out for him.

And it probably won't rate as important as Adam Doueihi's best game in the No.6 jersey, after he put three players through holes for linebreaks and kicked for another try.

But it was still worth celebrating.

Not least of which for Cini being denied his maiden try right in front of his mates in the southern stand just after halftime by the bunker, only to cross again moments later.

That four-pointer gave the Tigers a lead they wouldn't relinquish, setting off shirtless celebrations in the stands in scenes more accustomed to the English Premier League.

"When I put it down (the first time) I was shocked. But then I just had to think the chance will come again," Cini said.

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"It is a dream just to play footy but to score on debut with my mates in that corner (made it extra special).

"The support they gave was awesome and made it 10-times better."

A Penrith junior who played with Spencer Leniu growing up, Cini was hooked by the Tigers as a five-year watching Benji Marshall's dazzling 2005 season.

He went unsigned after being part of the Panthers champion under-18s side in 2018, and was picked up by the Tigers for under-20s the next year.

It earned him the right to train alongside Marshall and fellow childhood hero Robbie Farah, before the former hooker presented him with his jersey on Sunday.

"I loved Benji in 2005 and I used to sit in the lounge room watching him on TV," Cini said.

"When he played the grand final I was five and I used to go out the front and try to practise the Benji step.

"(When) the Tigers came up with an offer I was stoked, I just jumped on it straight away."

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