The mini-camp in Newcastle last week has the desired effect. The Wests Tigers were more focused, more disciplined and their goal-line defence in the second half was very impressive. The win wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be.
What is important is backing up that performance on Friday night. Like the Tigers, the Warriors have had an up-down season so far, recording 5 wins and 5 losses. Before their Round 9 bye, New Zealand had lost three in a row, but they are now shooting for three wins in a row after accounting for the Cowboys and Souths in consecutive games at Mt Smart.
Despite the fact New Zealand are coming off a short turnaround, this could be another challenging game for the Tigers if they don’t aim up from the kick-off. Even though the visitors will be missing prop Rapira and will still be without Price, Vatuvei and Lillyman, they received a boost when five-eighth Maloney was named in the run-on side. Maloney is still in doubt so utility Joel Moon was added to their bench to as cover.
As is the case with the Warriors, the Tigers have named the same starting line-up as last week. Unfortunately Galloway is still not ready to play after hand surgery a couple of weeks ago. I guess there’s no reason to rush a guy back in the side after a win. Speaking of which, it remains to be seen whether Fitzy and Ryan will play where they’ve been named. Fitzy was very solid filling in at fullback last week playing his best game of the year by far. Of course, regardless of who plays there this week, the position of fullback for the remainder of the year will belong to new recruit Wade McKinnon after he debuts for Wests against Canterbury in Round 13.
After last week’s rebound win, there should be no excuses for the Tigers on Friday. These are exactly the type of home games that a finals-bound team should win – and win well.
Fortune Teller: Lote Tuqiri will break his try scoring drought by going over for the first try of the match. The Wests Tigers will lead at half-time and go on with job in the second half, registering a 28-16 victory. Chris Heighington will cross for the last try of the match.
A lot has been said of the Tigers’ performance over the last month and the perceived lack of desire amongst the Wests Tigers senior players and coaching staff. We have all heard the rumors of disharmony and team factions fighting.
Whatever the cause of the poor performances, I am happy for one thing, the Tigers have slipped from the second line of betting, to the fourth line of betting. For the punters out there this is a well priced 12-1 from Sportsbet.
For those of us, including myself who didn’t get some of the action at 17-1 and then 15-1 now the Tigers are offering great value.
You have had 10 weeks to see how the Tigers will fare in the premiership this year, and to have a good look at how the other teams are playing.
With a competition hot shots in Melbourne out of the running (you can through the Sharks into that category as well) the Tigers only need to be in front of 6 other clubs. Then Tigers only really have to be playing great at the business end of the season.
The Tiges have 12 points in the bag, plus another bye making 14 points. Most years 30 points is enough to get you into the top 8, and from there it is pot luck – especially with the Tigers form. So the simple maths is, Tigers need to win 8 games from 13 starts. Not a long shot by any means.
Can the Tigers roll St George, Manly etc. Sure, we all know the Tigers can defeat every club in the Competition on their day. Look at 2005, yes in retrospect this premiership could be classed a fluke, but with the unpredictability of the Tigers they can easily fluke glory again.
But for all this to happen, the Tigers need to tuck away another nice run of 3 or 4 wins over the next 5 weeks.
So thanks for the poor form Tigers, I will be cashing in, and you can bet I will be one of the proud Tigers fans looking for a collect from the TAB on the first Monday of October.
Tim Sheens has opened up about the attacks on him and Wests Tigers playmaker Benji Marshall, which resulted in a News Ltd reporter being told to ”f— off” out of the team’s dressing room on Friday night.
Another week, another loss, more injuries. We can only hope that last weekend’s flogging is the rock-bottom from which the Tigers rebound from. But based on the body language of the players and the mounting injuring toll, is their next win around the corner or a few weeks off (at best)?
The Knights are also sitting on 4 wins, but have played and lost an extra game than the Tigers. They have been guilty of dropping games they should have won – most notably against Cronulla, but also getting run down late in the second half by the Cowboys and Panthers.
Newcastle have injury concerns of their own heading into this week with Taia, De Gois, McDonnell and Mullen on the sidelines. They will also be without their captain Gidley who is on rep duty. The Origin selectors predictably ignored all Wests Tigers players, but the loss of Fulton and Ayshford this week will stretch our already thin bench.
Wests have been unable to play with any intensity over the past couple of games. The first home match at the redeveloped Campbelltown Stadium against Easts and the Heritage game at the iconic SCG against Souths should have been big enough occasions to inspire the team. In Newcastle this week we can only hope the humiliation of last week and the Origin snubs for the likes of Tuqiri and Farah provide enough motivation for the team to finally fire-up as one. Even so, I cannot believe that bookies posted the Tigers as early favourites for this game.
Fortune Teller: Cory Paterson will score the first try and Knights will lead at half time. In the second half the planets align and the Tigers spark. The visitors sneak home with a Robbie Farah field goal, 17-16.
Hopefully the bye week and representative camps have given the squad and coaches a chance to freshen up. The Wests Tigers were getting stuck in a lackluster rut over the past two club games and a Heritage Round clash against long time rivals South Sydney at the SCG this Sunday sets the stage for what we hope is a return to form.
All eyes will be on Rob Lui as he returns from a lengthy injury lay-off. He may be the coach’s first choice halfback and a talented kid, but he’s not an elite player yet so expectations will need to be measured. But at the very least his return allows Farah to get back into dummy half and give much needed support to Marshall in attack.
To balance the good news about Rob Lui’s return and Gareth Ellis re-signing until 2013, Tiger fans found out on Wednesday that Keith Galloway will be missing for two weeks after requiring hand surgery. The hits keep coming.
Where the Tigers have been consistently flat in the past couple of games, the Rabbitohs have been consistently erratic. They have played poorly for large portions and given up large leads to opponents only to come alive in the final quarter and score a heap of unanswered points. The Tigers will need to keep their intensity up for the full 80 minutes if they’re to be a chance this week.
Losing Galloway for this match is pretty bad timing as Souths are not the forward pack you want to take on when you’re under strength. The Farah vs Luke contest around the ruck should be a beauty, as will the Battle of Britian between backrowers Burgess, Ellis and Flanagan. I’m backing our boys to chalk up a much needed win on Sunday but it’s not with much conviction or confidence – simply hope! C’mon Tigers!
Fortune Teller: Benji Marshall will score first try and the Tigers will lead at half time. South’s Beau Champion will score last try of the match but Wests Tigers win by a 4 point margin.
A 4-1 start: Three losses on the trot have the boys in the all too familiar position of eighth place. They'd surely feel more comfortable in ninth, and that's exactly where Wests would be if it wasn't for the Storm salary cap scandal. So all the fantastic recruiting, all the improved fitness and all the talk have so far amounted to absolutely nothing. The Tees started the year as one of the form sides in the comp and approaching the halfway mark have been overtaken by the likes of Penrith, Souths, Parramatta and Manly. Way to piss it up against a wall.
Tim Moltzen: Say what you like about the value of Benji, Robbie and Lote, the Tigers simply can’t win on a consistent basis without Tim Moltzen. Moltz is a genuine star who brings a touch of class to every game. He chases short kicks, backs up the forwards and runs great lines. The Tigers play well when Timmy plays well and his 2009 and 2010 form was the clearest sign yet that his value far outweighs what you see in the match reports. Players like Moltzen are hard to replace and I for one can’t wait to see him go around in 2011.
Common sense: I’m beginning to question whether Sheens has any. Wests had two utilities on the bench in round 8 and one of them, Mitch Brown, didn’t even see one second of game time. Spare me the talk about covering for injuries, we have more than enough flexibility in the starting 13 to make it through a match without using big Keith Galloway on the wing. Fulton and Flanagan could move into the centres with ease and Gareth Ellis is used to playing out wide. This selection policy continues to baffle me and I can’t see any other team in the comp that uses this ridiculous tactic.
Heighno playing City v Country: The big bloke has to be filthy about missing out on a rep jumper. Heighno has been brilliant in recent weeks and has turned back the clock with some terrific efforts in attack. I thought he was going to run out of Campbelltown Stadium when he scored against the Roosters, if only he could have bagged a double. One of the best value for money backrowers in the comp, Heighno is slowly but surely getting the silly penalties and dropped balls out of his game. I’m tipping he’s even played his way back into Ray Warren’s good books.
Easy kicks at goal: It’s only a matter of time until goal kicking costs the Tigers a game – or worse still a place in the finals. There’s no easy kicks when Benji is in charge. He takes me back to the bad old days of Michael Withers and John Simon. This issue has to be addressed as soon as possible. Working with Jason Taylor hasn’t done the trick, so surely it’s time to give someone else a crack. The missed penalty goal against the Roosters was a huge blow, but saying that, they should never have taken the shot in the first place.