Five Star Special: Israel Folau

So the man they call Izzy has taken the money and done a runner to AFL. And what a runner it is – up to six million big ones to become the next Garrick Morgan. Surely you all remember the former Wallaby turned South Queensland Crusher who joined rugby league amid much fanfare in 1994. Big Garrick cashed in, fell flat on his face and retreated to rugby union the very next year.
I'm not deathriding Izzy, he is a sensational pure athlete, but established AFL stars like Jonathon Brown and Gary Ablett Jnr must be rubbing their hands together ahead of their next contract extension. If an unproven player like Izzy can command more than $1 million a year to play AFL, then where does that leave superstars of the game like Brown and Ablett. Do you pay these blokes $2 million? $3 million? The mind boggles.
A few people have already suggested Folau is following in the footsteps of rugby union converts like Lote. Nothing could be further from the truth. Folau is parading himself as an AFL full forward, meaning he will have to kick booming goals from 50 metres out on a consistent basis. I understand blokes like Lote had to change their playing style to succeed in the 15-man game, but Folau is literally looking at a whole different ball game when it comes to AFL.
Queensland now have the difficult task of dropping Folau for Origin two and make no mistake, they have to drop him for the good of the game. I doubt NRL boss David Gallop really wants this bloke splashed across millions of TV screens when he's already become the face of the AFL's newest club. The AFL have started a war in western Sydney. Their intentions are clear and Gallop has to find the testicular fortitude to take a stand.
Good riddance Izzy, enjoy the handballs big fella.

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Round 12: Tigers vs Warriors

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.

One-eyed Tiger

Tigers’ Paying Out The Big $$

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.

<^Flanno Fan^>

Five Star Special: Backs to the wall

Thoughts on our current backline…
Beau Ryan: Looked great replacing Moltzen at fullback, but seems to have lost a bit of confidence since dropping a crucial bomb against the Roosters. Runs hard out of dummy half and is a brilliant athlete, without having speed to burn. Showed his class playing on the wing against the Knights and is a great team man. One thing you can never knock is Beau’s passion and enthusiasm.
Lote: Started the season like a house on fire and continues to play well without crossing for many tries. Lote’s D is better than I remember and he puts plenty of pressure on opposition wingers. His combination with Benji has fallen off in recent weeks and I’d like to see the big bloke get more involved when the team is struggling to make ground, much like Dell did with the Dragons in 2009.
Geoff Daniela: You can’t help but think Daniela brings something special to a backline that lacks a Michael Jennings-type danger man who can turn a game on its head. The former Panther has plenty of speed, great footwork and looks like a pure finisher. Every team needs a player like this and while there’s no questioning the value of Lawrence and Ayshford, for mine their games are just too similar.
Chris Lawrence: Has worked hard on his D and is always damaging with the ball in hand. Lawrence is big, fast, strong and has a knack of scoring tries when they’re needed most. One of the things I like most is his modest, no nonsense attitude. While Daniela is clearly a bit of a showman, Lawrence goes about his work quietly. For mine, this is the perfect combination out wide.
Daniel Fitzhenry: No other player polarises opinion like the Fitzmeister. Love him or hate him, Fitzy played a key role in Friday night’s win over the Knights and took one of the best bombs I have ever seen in pouring rain. Another great team man, Fitzy has a shocking habit of wasting tackles out of dummy half, but he’s an underdog, and isn’t that what being a Wests Tigers fan is all about?
Benji Marshall: I really don’t know what to make of all this Benji vs Robbie talk in the News Ltd press, so I’ll just go off Friday night’s performance and say the two of them look like good mates with a common goal of winning another NRL premiership. Benji is good for two shockers a game and two moments of brilliance a game. Again, isn’t that what being a Tiger is all about? They keep us young and make us old.
Robert Lui: Great game against the Knights and looks to be finding his way in first grade. Lui is the type of strong ball runner that reminds me of Stacey Jones. He’s not going to break any 100m sprint records, but he has the strength and deceptive footwork to beat tacklers and score tries from short range. His passing game is coming into its own and he is always quick to fire up the boys at the breakdown of play.

Round 11: Tigers vs Knights

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.
One-eyed Tiger.

Five Star Special: Slip sliding away

Say sorry: I don’t buy all this ‘apologise to the fans’ garbage we’ve been hearing from the coaching staff and players. Since when did the Tigers turn into a team of Kevin Rudds? These are professional footballers who get paid a heap of money to play the game we all love. They shouldn’t be in the position to apologise to fans in the first place. The half time score was embarrassing enough, surely that should have motivated the boys a tiny bit.
You’re the voice: TV and radio commentators reckon Sheens gave the boys a rocket at half time. Teflon said it was the worst half of football the Ts had played all year. Didn’t he trot out a similar line in the Roosters game? The messages clearly aren’t getting across. Sheens can’t make a mark with these boys because he’s been around them too long. He’s too comfortable and the players are too comfortable. The Ts need a coaching change, and fast.
Butterfingers: Dropped balls and stupid offloads are quickly becoming the theme of season 2010. Everyone had a go on Sunday and didn’t they produce some points for the opposition. The Ts have never been known for their offloads, so how on earth did they develop this obsession with throwing passes – or trying to throw passes – in a three man tackle in their own 20 metre zone. You can see the pass coming and you know what the end result will be.
Sideline fever: The short side play from the base of the scrum catches teams off guard every now and then. Funnily enough, the key is to try the play every now and then. The Ts were struggling on Sunday but got a huge advantage with a 40/20 and the scrum feed in great attacking position only to run their pet short side play and get taken into touch before even playing the ball. Teams train for these plays over and over again and the Bunnies made the boys look stupid.
That’s my team? The Tigers had a week off to think about this one. A week off to think about wasting another red hot start to the year and a week off to think about the possibility of missing the top 8 in what is essentially a 15-team competition. Let’s go one step further and forget the Sharkies for a moment and call it a 14-team competition. When you look at it like that, the Ts really are in a heap of trouble.
<^Tiger Brad^>

Round 10: Tigers vs Souths

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. 

One-eyed Tiger

Five Star Special: Bye week

In the spirit of the week, the Five Star Special says bye to the following …
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.
<^Tiger Brad^>

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