Weekends out West: Tears Of A Clown

 
First half: We’re one game into State of Origin 2011 and I’ve already had a gutful of New South Wales coach Ricky Stuart. I’m a loud and proud Blues fan, but Stuart is kidding himself if he thinks this lot will ever beat Queensland in a three-game series. The former Sharks coach let his ego get in the way when he refused to pick Jarryd Hayne because of perceived attitude issues. There’s no doubt Hayne is a show pony, but I’d take a nag over that donkey Josh Dugan any day of the week. Staying true to his “pick and stick” philosophy, Stuart has blamed the referees, the crowd and the weather – apparently the wind helped Queensland’s kicking game – for his side’s defeat.
 
Second half: The Tigers were absolutely disgraceful against an understrength Panthers outfit last week in what was one of the worst games of rugby league I’ve ever seen. Simon Dwyer, Andrew Fifita, Mitch Brown and Wade McKinnon can hold their heads up high, but the rest of the boys should do the right thing and donate their pay to charity. Rumours of player unrest at Camp Concord continue, and they’re becoming increasingly difficult to dismiss after another terrible performance. The Tigers reportedly trashed out the issues this week ahead of Sunday’s game with the Dragons. It’s a match that could make or break a Wests premiership campaign that is yet to hit any great heights.
 
Golden point: Perhaps the most concerning issue emerging from this year’s State of Origin series is the future of Phil Gould’s hair. When Gould took his usual position under the goal posts to rehash his 2010 prematch spray I couldn’t work out if he was trying to look like John Laws or Bert Newtown. Taking on a coaching role at the Penrith Panthers would age anyone overnight, but sporting the slicked back smokey silver look is a little over the top. Gus was also making quite a statement in the trouser department, with his parachute pants an obvious nod to MC Hammer. This is the sort of stuff blokes like the 12th Man and Roy and HG live for. Over to you, Mr Bermingham.
 
Numbers game: 27. The number of metres made by New South Wales starting prop Jason King on Wednesday night. Compare that to 148m by Queensland big man Matt Scott and 146m by Maroons veteran Petero Civoniceva.
 
Shout out: “They were brave” – Blues coach Ricky Stuart on his side’s 16-12 loss in Origin One. Brave and beaten Ricky, brave and beaten.
 
<^TigerBrad^>

Round 12: Dragons vs Tigers

Preview:

After limping off the field with a lucky two competion points last week, the Wests Tigers now face the daunting task of taking on the premiership front-runners at their home ground, who have so far only lost one game all year, shooting for a club record nine straight wins and have most of their squad coming off a relaxing bye. The Tigers remain clinging to the bottom of the Top 8 but are down on confidence following two very ordinary performances. No doubt the timing of the Dragons game could not be better. Wests need the motivation to lift and spark them back into life – and this game will provide exactly that.

So what chance do our Wests Tigers have of getting a result? Well, eight Dragons are backing up from the bruising encounter on Wednesday night, so that can’t hurt our chances. Second, our defensive effort against Penrith was the sole pleasing aspect from last week. That effort will need to be repeated against St George who boast plenty of attacking guns in the backline. Third, it’s a Sunday afternoon game – a timesolt that the free-running Tigers clearly prefer. However, the weather forecast indicates chance of rain on Sunday, which may nullify some attacking ability of both sides. Will that even the playing field or make the Wests’ job tougher?

Since the grand final qualifer last year, in which the Tigers put up a hell of a show and pushed the eventual premiers to within one point, the fortunes of both clubs have gone in different directions. The Dragons show no sign of taking the foot of the accelerator and remain favourites to repeat the minor-premiership and Grand Final double for a second year in a row. The Tigers campaign so far has been disappointing, with injuries and lazy football contributing to a megre 50% win-loss ratio after 10 games. Given their favourable draw so far, the Tigers would have expected to be in the Top 4 by this stage.

Like most Tigers fans I was disappointed when the team sheet was released on Tuesday. Not only were Ellis and Tuqiri missing for (possibly) one more week, the squad had only one change. And that was dropping one of the best players from the last two weeks to the bench (Fifita). I’m also confused how Moltzen retained his spot in the centres. He’s clearly not comfortable in that position and his defence has been seriously lacking of late. I fear he’ll get found out by Gasnier. On a positive note, I did like the fact that Sheens played four forwards off the bench last week and I hope he does that again this week. We will need to maintain fresh troops in the engine room if we are to contain St George for the full 80. I just hope Shifty has some late changes up his sleeve and that Ellis is fit enough to return. Whatever the result, this week is likely to be season-defining for the Tigers. Let’s hope it’s good one!

Fortune Teller:

FTS: Matt Cooper for the Dragons
Margin: The heart says Tigers by 1.

Fantasy Bites:

The game of the week in the BWTF Printing Well Cup this week is undoubtably TigerBrad’s HowlingT’Wolves (3rd) against Gus’ FrothingDonkeys (4th). Elsewhere, Rod’s Bucketsofblood (10th) will be fighting for a Top 8 spot against Phil’s MongrelMagpies (8th).

How amazing was Fensom’s score of 89 last week? For those that played him, he probably got you an Eliminator win. Unfortunately Canberra is on a bye this week but he’ll see a sharp rise in value when he plays again in Round 13.

With most team’s regular captain backing up from Origin (Smith or Parker), coaches will need to weigh the risk of those guys getting less minutes this week.

<^One-Eyed Tiger^>

Round 11: Tigers vs Panthers

We can only sit and wait to find out which Wests Tigers team takes the field against the Panthers this Saturday. The one that ripped apart Canberra or the one that got lapped by Souths. The alarming thing is in both games the exact same personnel were involved. From the opening 5 minutes last week it was clear the Tigers weren’t ready for this game for whatever reason. They were disorganised with the ball and lethargic in defence. It’s a cultural problem that has been with the club since 2000 – so often they are unable to win the games they are expected to win, especially away from home. The ability to turn up wherever and whenever and get the job done is what separates the elite teams from the rest. Fortunately redemption is only a few more days away and form in the 2011 premiership rarely carries over week to week.

The Panthers started the weekend of upsets last Friday with a surprise win over Brisbane. Has the arrival of Dr Phil (Gould) turned their season around or was that a flash in a pan? But it was a costly win for the mountain men, losing Gordon and Tahu for the rest of the year. They’ll also be tested this week without their Origin players, Jennings and Civoniceva. They’ll still field a very strong side as they welcome back fullback Coote from a groin injury and have Lewis and Walsh in good form.

For a team that boasted four of the starting six forwards in City Origin and another two players in Country Origin, the Tigers are the only team in the NRL to not have anyone called up for either State of Origin team for Game 1 (if you include South’s Taylor as QLD 18th man). The only change for Wests this week is Gibbs being named on the extended bench. If he’s fit I only hope Sheens retains Woods in the 17.

It’s one thing to talk about getting off to a good start, but it’s another thing for Farah and the forwards to actually do it. If the Tigers are to take advantage of the new-look Penrith backline this Saturday, the forwards have got to get a roll on and make the Panthers work in defence. That means less dummy half runs and more one and two man attacking raids off the ruck. Some quality second-phase play is also needed to ask further questions of the defenders, another thing that was lacking last week.

A 40-point flogging by Souths last year shocked the Tigers into action and they ended up finishing in the Top 4. Again, they will need to use this latest defeat by the Bunnies as motivation to save their season. Wests have the team to beat Penrith – as long as they turn up with the right attitude.

Fortune Teller:

FTS: Now more than ever, the Tigers MUST be the first try scorer. McKinnon is looking like a solid bet with his excellent support play.
Margin: Wests by 4

Fantasy Bites:

The Mongrel Magpies join the Top 8 and the mini tigers remain alone at the top. The remainder of the Top 8 reshuffles a bit with 89Heros, Howling T’wolves, Frothing Donkeys and FlannoFan collecting wins and advancing to 10 points. FlannoFan also took out the top score of the round honours with 760.

Round 11 is another bye week in The Printing Well Cup, but there’s no time to rest. The Eliminator Knockout comp kicks-off this week (check the Eliminator tab when you login to Dreamteam website to see your first round matchup). So if you want a shot at the Eliminator ca$h prizes, you haven’t got much time to take stock of the recent injuries and deal with the State of Origin impact. If you can field 17 players this week, you’re in much better shape than me.

<^One-Eyed Tiger^>

Weekends Out West: Swings and Roundabouts

The difference between the top four and the rest became obvious over the weekend, and nothing highlighted the performance  difference than the Tigers V Rabbits game.  A top gun of the competition only has a form swing of 5 – 10% between a great game and a bad game, this allows those teams on the large part to compete week in week out.  The Tigers on the other hand can have a form swing of 30% between a good game and a great game, meaning the Tigers always have the potential of going into the sheds 26+ behind at half time.

On a brighter note, Rob Farrah is playing better each week and Dwyer is growing into the “Bradley Clyde” Coach Sheens reported he reminded him of.

Spare a thought for Jamal Idris, kangaroo too NSW number 18.  Jamal I believe is lucky to even get that far for NSW, he can be quickly found out in defence especially on his own try line – where the toads are most dangerous with the little men Lockyer, and Thurston, and 2 large centre Inglis and Hodges (if they were playing).  Idris has some work to do on his game and it seems Stuart is putting a carrot in front of the donkey.

Was Ricky Stuart having a crack at his Kangaroo coach replacement Tim Sheens when he claimed he only picked players in their correct position?  Perhaps but he was still the coach that allowed the talent drain to occur from the Sharks, which they are still recovering from.

From champagne to home brew, Carney has continued his freefall from the pinicle of rugby league.  While not embarrassing the Roosters last week, he has a long way to go before the league community can hail him “cured”.

Manly’s Brett Stewart well publicised “gallop” try celebration caused much stir, it seems to me Brett should concentrate on getting on the paddock 2 weeks in a row and get over his 4 week suspension from way back when.  Brett just remember the courts may of found you innocent but you still let the game down by being drunk enough to bumble your way into a situation that lead to your season holiday.  Is staying of the grog for $250K + a year that hard?  Apparently so for many players.

<^Flannofan^>

 

 

Round 10: Rabbitohs vs Tigers

Preview:

Tim Sheens has been able to do something very rare this week: name the same 17 that played the previous game! And the timing couldn’t be better, with the Wests Tigers coming off their best game of the year in their last start thumping of the Raiders and all seven NZ, City and Country representatives returning from solid games without picking up additional injuries.

A 50% win ratio over the first eight games is somewhat disappointing. We’ve completely dominated three of those games (against Souths and twice against Canberra), but failed to keep pace with the Chooks and Broncs. The less said about the Titans game the better. But with a stable and fit spine of McKinnon, Marshall, Lui and Farah the Tigers will only improve from here – especially with top line players such as Gibbs, Ellis, Payten, Tuqiri and Lawrence still to return over next couple of weeks and months.

A win against the troubled Rabbits is a must this week to consolidate Wests’ spot in the Top 8. Souths are going though an injury crisis of their own at the moment with Inglis the latest to join the list of busted Bunnies. And Sandow’s public war of words with the Souths hierarchy over his departure to Parra next year may further disrupt the team’s focus this week.

Everything points to a big Wests victory this Saturday night. Coming off the bye and with a few players pushing for NSW Blues jerseys, the Tigers should be well and truly primed. No excuses.

Fortune Teller:

FTS: The Tigers have been the slower team out of blocks in the majority of their games this year. Get on Nathan Merritt for first try scorer.
Margin: Rabbit hunting season is open. The Tigers by 24+.

Fantasy Bites:

It’s tight at the top of the BWTF Printing Well Cup. Only one team, the mini tigers, are undefeated on 10 points but there is a traffic jam of six teams on 8 points nipping at their heels. Four of those teams go head-to-head this week: One-Eyed Tigers (2nd) vs 89Heros (3rd) and Horsehead Bookends (6th) vs FlannoFan (7th). The winner of 1 FISH (9th) and No Chance (10th) can advance into the Top 8, unless bucketsofblood (8th) can upset the league leaders mini tigers. Good luck everyone!

<^One-Eyed Tiger^>

Weekends out West: Last Goodbye

 
Let’s take a bye week moment to say goodbye to…
 
Crapulous, cabbaged Carney: Teetotalling Todd is back on the training paddock after an “indefinite” suspension that lasted all of two weeks. The remarkable recovery coincided with the Roosters four-game losing streak and you have to wonder if Carney would be training if the club was leading the competition. Once again the Roosters and Teetotalling Todd have played NRL boss David Gallop for an absolute fool.
 
South Sydney Sandow: The enigmatic halfback took the money and ran all the way to a desperate Parramatta outfit that continues to rebuild under new coach Stephen Kearney. The Eels say the deal is worth far less than the $550,000 a season Tweeted by Bunnies bossman Russell Crowe. I hope for Parra’s sake they’re telling the truth, because I wouldn’t offer Sandow much more than a schnitzel and a six pack.
 
Punters’ paradise: I still can’t understand how Josh Dugan’s first try against the Tigers was awarded. There isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest the Raiders fullback grounded the ball cleanly. If he didn’t drop the ball twice then he definitely dropped it once. Media reports claim big time punters are turning away from the NRL, and Sunday’s effort has convinced me to spend my money elsewhere. The AFL looks like a good bet…
 
Halfback haters: Take off your Moltzen-coloured glasses and say it with me…Rob Lui is a star. You only have to watch the Raiders game to see how far Lui has come as a player and a leader. Everything about the guy reminds me of Scott Prince. His steady play and constant talk let Benji Marshall play his natural game and pick his spots to tear teams apart. This 6 and 7 will take the Wests Tigers to the top in 2011.
 
Ageism anger: Old Man McKinnon and Underrated Utai have silenced the critics with a mix of experience and aggression. I was critical of the McKinnon signing before a ball was kicked in anger in 2011, calling for Moltzen to be first-choice fullback, but what would I know. McKinnon’s support play is among the best in the competition and Utai is always the first player to put his hand up when the Tigers need to make some metres.
 
Brad’s Blogging: I’m away for two weeks and handing the keys to Adam. It’s a move that’s fraught with danger and has the potential to attract all sorts of law suits. Only last year we saw how a rookie armed with a rumour about a high-profile Cowboy could go off quicker than a Chris Sandow pre-try celebration. Some might say it’s like giving Teetotalling Todd a job behind a bar in a quiet country town, but surely that will never happen.
 
<^TigerBrad^>