Round 17: Tigers vs Broncos

The Wests Tigers were outclassed last week. Again, the loss of our halfback left us a little lost in attack, but it was poor kicking options and lack of composure at crucial stages of the game that really killed us. It’s not as if the Tigers were perfect in recent wins against the Dogs and Raiders – far from it. But the Dragons seized on our weaknesses and made us pay.

It wasn’t a game we HAD to win and losses by the Titans and Manly meant we didn’t lose our position on the ladder. However, we have only managed to beat one of the current Top 8 teams so far and that was the last minute win against the Sea Eagles in the first round.

We have a chance to amend that stat when we take on the Broncos this Friday. There was a time in early April when Wests fans would have banked this game as a win. We were 4-1, they were 1-4 and we knew they would be without their Origin players for this game. Right now it’s far from cut-and-dried. We’re coming off a loss and continuing to struggle with injuries and they are on the rise and playing like a genuine Top 4 side.

The Blues loss is the Tiger’s gain as Farah and Heighno were overlooked by Origin selectors again. No doubt they’ll be fired up for this one. Brisbane will be without Lockyer, Thaiday and Folau but still boast one hell of a team. They are confident and well-drilled, combining solid experience (Parker, Wallace) with young, up-and-coming stars (Gillett, Norman).

Fitzhenry will be Sheen’s next experiment as stand-in halfback, and even though Flanagan and Ryan are missing we are still fielding a very competitive side. With Ayshford moving back into the centres, Daniela’s move to cover the vacant wing position should be seamless. Fulton’s return from injury is timely to cover Flanno’s absence, and Dwyer’s impact from the bench is always valuable.

Despite having the fourth best attack in the league, Parramatta did a good job of containing Brisbane last week. The Tiger’s defence has been patchy at times and will be exposed again if they drop intensity. In attack we need to take on Brisbane up the middle. Farah must dominate the ruck and provide quick, clean ball to our forwards to keep the Broncos on the backfoot. Marshall is most effective when he has time and space to direct his runners on the fringes and, with the exception of Fitzy and McKinnon, we have the pace in the backs to convert line breaks into points. Go Tigers!

Fortune Teller: Former Tiger Ben Te’o will score the first try and former Bronco Lote Tuqiri will score the final try. The Wests Tigers will prevail 18 – 16 in a thriller. You can bet on it!

<^One-eyed Tiger^>

Five Star Special: Good versus great

Friday night's loss to the Dragons proved the Tigers are a good team, not a great team. The 34-10 scoreline flattered the home side, who scored a converted try moments before half time and two more in the final two minutes to seal the win. Those 18 points came at a time when truly great teams stand up and remain composed. Benji Marshall's lazy forward pass from dummy half and Robbie Farah's attempted barge over on the first tackle cost the Tigers when the game was on the line.
 
Great teams – teams like the Dragons – don't make these mistakes. Great teams take the right options and show patience, poise and intelligence in attack. These are all qualities the Tigers lacked on Friday night. The boys desperately need to find their composure with a tough run in the lead up to the finals. Marshall and Farah are veterans and they need to start playing accordingly. Both are great players, but great players don't always make for a great team.
 
This weekend's game could define the season. If the Tigers turn up with a bad attitude the Broncos will run riot, even without their Origin stars. Wests won't win this game by going wide in the first 10 minutes. A great team would take 20-30 minutes to wear down a younger, less experienced opposition before putting the foot down and letting the backs loose. The forwards should lay the platform for this game and the rest of the season, including a month-long finals campaign.
 
The Tigers don't want to scrape into the semis only to be one and done. One week won't cut it, not after missing the finals for four consecutive years. A good team might be happy with that effort, but a great team will start building something special with a rare opportunity to get the Broncos at the perfect time. No doubt Sheens will be on shaky ground if the boys let this one slip. I hope for his sake – and ours – they turn good into great.
 
<^TigerBrad^>

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Round 16: Tigers vs Dragons

Whilst last week’s game against Canberra may not have gone entirely to script, the result was definitely on the money. It was the stuff heart-attacks are made from, with both sides guilty of not converting chances into points. The Tigers were clearly a bit rusty after the bye week but in the end the fantastic Leichhardt crowd and sheer guts and determination from the boys got us the win. Lui and Ryan in particular copped big hits during the game but admirably played on injured. Lui’s desperation in defence prevented Thompson from scoring a vital try late in the first half and Ryan, in the shadows of full-time, got the go-ahead score that also earned him a place in the record books for scoring the 1000th Wests Tigers try.

The past four wins have largely been built upon a much improved defensive attitude. Since getting 50 points put past us in Round 10, Wests have conceded only five tries in four games. The confidence and momentum gained from those wins, as well as getting back to a near full strength squad, puts us in great shape to face fellow Top 8 sides (Dragons, Broncos and Titans) over the next three Friday nights.

Like the Tigers, St George-Illawarra are coming off a short turnaround. They welcome back Weyman and Young to the starting line-up, but will again be without Cooper in the centres. Soward has thrown his hat in the ring to be the next NSW five-eighth (and why not) so will be set for another big performance. McKinnon will be in for a busy night cleaning up his long kicks.

For the Tigers, the lure of being named in the new-look NSW squad will also be added motivation for Farah, Heighington and Lawrence. The team has recovered from the bumps and bruises picked-up on Sunday, with McKinnon and Asyshord retaining their positions and Galloway also making the run-on side. Gibbs and Payten are in top form at the moment and Fitzy’s contributions from the bench are proving valuable. Heighington has been simply awesome in both attack and defence, earning man-of-the-match honours last week. Fortunately he is clear to play this week after copping the early guilty plea for his grade one charge.

This game will be a great test for the Tigers against a quality opponent. The Dragons are the premiership pace setters and we’ll need to be at our best to to beat them down at Kogarah. A win will solidify the mighty Tigers in the Top 4 in their charge for the 2010 title. Go Tigers!

Fortune Teller: Brett Morris scores the first try and Dragons lead at half time. The Wests Tigers come home stronger in the second half with Chris Heighington scoring the last try and Benji Marshall potting the game winning field goal, 19 – 18.

One-eyed Tiger.

Five Star Fitzy

Perhaps no Wests Tiger past or present polarises opinion quite like D. Fitzhenry. The Fitzmeister has once again been bagged from pillar to post this season with the usual array of Sheens’ lovechild references. Let’s face it, I’ve done it, you’ve done it, we’ve all done it. Sometimes the poor bloke even deserves it, but those moments have been few and far between in season 2010.
 
Fantastic Fitzy was just that on a cold, wet night in Newcastle when the Tigers were absolutely desperate for a win. He took bombs, tracked up the middle of the field to support his forwards and chased grubber kicks in shocking conditions. He also offered absolutely nothing with his trademark scoots from dummy half, but we’ve come to expect that from the man they call the Doughnut King. Enough of the bagging – for now – let’s look as his effort against the Raiders.
 
I’m sure I wasn’t alone in blowing up like a good sort when new recruit Wade McKinnon got benched at the 65-minute mark on Sunday. Wade enjoyed a mixed debut for the Tigers, but I for one thought his support play would turn the game in the final stages with the Tigers searching for that elusive try. Enter Mr Fantastic, who wasted no time in gaining a valuable two metres from dummy half before taking some brilliant marks at the back.
 
The game was still in the balance after Beau Ryan’s solo effort along the right touchline and the Tigers got a great chance to put the Raiders to the sword with a scrum feed around half way. So who does a team boasting the likes of Marshall, Lote and Lawrence turn to in its hour of need? None other than the Meister. Mr Fantastic brushed past a couple of lazy Raiders defenders and showed plenty of speed in his 29-year-old legs to seal the win.
 
That try and the celebration that followed was enough to convert me into a card carrying member of the Mr Fantastic Fan Club. Fitzy has his faults as a player, but don’t they all. I’m proud to call him a Tiger and in many ways he’s what being a Wests supporter is all about. Fitzy may not be as talented as the next bloke – see Daniela, Geoff for more information – but he’s an unfashionable battler who works his guts out for the sake of the team.
 
So here’s cheers to Daniel ‘Mr Fantastic’ Fitzhenry. Good luck with the rest of the season, and all the best to you and Tim with the DNA test. The results are long overdue!
 
<^TigerBrad^>

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Tigers roar at the Regatta

It has been a huge couple of days for a few Brisbane (SEQ) based Wests Tigers fans with the first event for the Tigers faithful to catch up, have a laugh and meet some new friends. Of course there was also the stella footy game to enjoy.

Meeting at the Regatta, we were provided the Cellar Bar with all TVs tuned to the big game, and the atmosphere was almost as electric as being at the ground itself.

Before the game, Tigers Fans were priveleged to hear the tale of the poor fella at Ipswich Cup race day, who had a few to many before being crashed tackled by the local Constabulary. Regrettably for the punter, the hit laid on him was a Heighno special and the impact crushed the little bowel control the punter had left, resulting in a terrible pants mess and being told by the Police to walk home. Brute big hit.

Other tales followed, as well as fantastic banter on how each person became a Tigers supporter and their history with the club. Special mention goes out to Alan and Gary from the peninsula who have had a multi generation support of the Tigers with their Grandfather being president of the Balmain Tigers for a period. Two passionate blokes with a great knowledge of the game, it was great to meet you both.

The weekend also signified the first time all the contributors to the website met, with Tiger Brad (chief editor and punctuation king) pulling the boys into the shed for a quick vocabulary touch up and a grammar lesson before the second half of the season. Rule number one in Tiger Brads writing team is the strict prohibition of the word “whilst”. Whilst this was being said, I wasnt paying attention, instead engaging in a side conversation with a brave Raiders fan.

It was a great afternoon, we will definately get together again soon and hopefully a meet a few more people. We are a rare breed!

Other big news:

*  Our www.brisbaneweststigersfans.com.au stickers have arrived. We are hoping that these stickers will find their way into the hands of other Wests Tigers fans. If you would like us to post you some let me know how many you want and your address via the email address and i will post them out to you. If you want a few to hand out to people at the Broncos match that is fine as well. The dream is to unite the Tigers Fans – never cheer alone!

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*  We were lucky enough to get a lovely Tigers banner for our events. We will be looking to have this registered so we can put it up at Suncorp Stadium. However failing that, our banner will definately be flying high at future catch ups and also on Caxton St before the Broncos game and at Skilled Stadium round 26. Wherever you see the banner, be sure to come over and say hi.

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<^FlannoFan^>

Five Star Special: The Spiritual Home

Leichhardt Oval: What is it about the Spiritual Home that makes the Tigers play like men possessed? Is it the hill, the hotdog stands, the people perched atop the toilet blocks? No one knows for sure, but for some reason Leichhardt brings out the best in these blokes. Opposition teams hate playing at Leichhardt and perhaps that's one of the Tigers' biggest advantages. A home crowd is always a huge bost for any team, but a Leichhardt Oval crowd is something truly special. It makes ordinary players do extraordinary things. Think back to the likes of Joel Caine, John Carlaw, Shane Walker, Corey Pearson and Robbie Mears turning it on at Leichhardt and tell me I'm wrong.
 
Local juniors: Robbie has reportedly taken the new boys aside and spoken to them about what it means to play at Leichhardt Oval. What a great move by a passionate, team-first leader. You can't help but admire Farah and the rest of our local juniors as they slowly but surely build towards the finals. One of the best things about supporting the Tigers is the club's commitment to building from within. It really is inspiring to see juniors like Chris Lawrence and Liam Fulton playing alongside high profile recruits and internationals like Lote and Gareth Ellis. Season 2010 has continued the trend as Dwyer, Fifita, Lui and Ayshford have more than held their own in the top grade.
 
<^TigerBrad^>

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Round 15: Tigers vs Raiders

After showing impressive form and racking up three straight wins it was almost a shame the bye week came when it did. But at least it has given players like McKinnon, Ayshford and Galloway extra time to overcome injuries and be named in the extended squad for this weekend’s clash. It’s probably one of the strongest line-ups that Sheens has had at his disposal this season. The competition for starting spots and the fact this is the first game of the season at Leichhardt will guarantee the boys are highly motivated for the occasion.

Canberra may as well have been a bye last week. In a dire match against the Cowboys they were very, very poor. This week they will get their three Origin reps back (Shillington, Learoyd-Lahrs and Monaghan). The Raiders have a massive forward pack, so a solid kick-chase game from Farah and Marshall will be needed to keep them turning around and tire them out. Campese is their number one danger-man in attack, but he’s proven vulnerable to a defensive line moving up quickly on him and limiting his kicking game. If Monaghan exhibits the same defensive techniques he did against the Maroons on Wednesday, then Lawrence and Tuqiri will have an absolute field day.

In 2008 and 2009 the Tigers had a 50% winning record coming off a bye. Of course got flogged after the first bye this year, so a win this weekend is a racing certainty! Go Tigers!

Fortune Teller: Joel Thompson will score the first try of the match. Simon Dwyer will score the last try. The Tigers lead at half/full time and win the game 28 – 12. The 1000th Wests Tigers try will be scored by Chris Lawrence. You can bet on it!

One-eyed Tiger.

Good Knight Beau Ryan?

Howdy folks,

I dont mean to be an alarmist, but I am receiving reports that Beau Ryan has been offered a contract by Newcastle.

Beau has signed to the Tigers (smart move) for another two years, however he does have a get out clause if he is offered more $$$ by another club.

This is only a rumour at this point, however I am sure Newcastle would be looking to replace Vuna, who has signed a rugby contract and will be leaving the club.

<^FlannoFan^>

Round 13: Tigers vs Bulldogs

The Wests Tigers have rediscovered their roar! Since that disappointing Souths game and rumours of in-fighting, the team has banded together and formed a really tight-nit group. They have been able to grind out periods of games when the opposition has had the run of the green, then when momentum swings back they have been able to dominate. In the last two games, the Tigers have only conceded one try in each first half then kept their opponent scoreless for the remainder of the match. It’s little wonder Sheens has stuck with the same 1-17 for the third week straight when we face the Bulldogs.

The scheduling this week has again been kind to us. The Tigers are playing their third Friday night game in a row while the Bulldogs have a shortened preparation after travelling back from Melbourne on Sunday. With a bye next week for both teams there will no need for anyone to leave anything in the tank at the 80th minute.

The ‘Dogs, despite their position on the table, are always a dangerous team. They have only won three games this year, but one of them of course was against us in Round 6 (which co-incidentally started our four week losing stretch). With size and speed in the centres (Idris, Morris), the NSW Origin half and hooker combination (Kimmorley, Ennis) and big-name forwards (Hannant, Ryan, Stagg), they are the most under-performing and disappointing team in the comp. After four straight losses they are very much in must-win mode if they are to sneak into the finals.

That fact alone makes this a very dicey match-up for the Tigers. You’ve got to admit, our last couple of wins have been against injury-hit sides. This Bulldogs side, with the exception of Roberts, Halatau and Barba, are basically back at full strength. They’re a proud club and will want this home game (albeit at a “neutral” venue) to spark them into form.

Wests shown in the past couple of games that we don’t need fancy flick-passes or risky plays to score points. With Lui, Ellis and Daniela combining on the right and Payten, Lawrence and Tuqiri down the left we have plenty of attacking options when shifting the ball off the ruck. Those combinations will allow Marshall to relax more and look for the odd-opening to appear every now and then, instead of trying to score on every play. The Tigers need to continue to be patient in possession and muscle up in defence. If we can start sharply and prevent their forwards from getting a roll-on early, we’ll get the money.

Fortune Teller: Beau Ryan will score the first try of the match and the Tigers will enjoy a half time lead. Josh Morris will score the final try, but the Wests Tigers prevail 26-20.

One-eyed Tiger.