The Halfback and Forth – The Struggles of being a WT Fan

At the start of this season I had every intention of writing regular blogs for BWTF. The first eight weeks of the season passed, and we were four from eight. We probably should have even been six from eight. JT was saying the right things in press conferences, and WT Fans were again cautiously optimistic after some of the wins we had.

Then the decline started in a train wreck that could only be outdone by Bernie Tomic’s relationship status with Tennis Australia. My desire to write blogs declined in a similar fashion, and not because I didn’t have things to write about but simply because I knew that you, our loyal BWTF readers didn’t need to. I wasn’t going to be telling you anything that you weren’t seeing in the games. I started to get really frustrated, to a point where I shocked even Mrs Slade when I turned off the game against Penrith at the 50 minute mark, something that I only do in the depths of disgust and despair. Mrs Slade turned to me and said ‘You don’t have any faith in your team, there’s still time!’ but I knew that a loss in that game was all but a certainty.

For those that are reading this article that perhaps aren’t Tigers fans it’s been an incredibly frustrating period of time to be a supporter. The decline started in 2012 if we’re being realistic. At the time I was heavily critical of some of the recruitment decisions made by Sheens and Humphries. It makes our current form even harder to handle – it’s not like we’ve been near the top for the last few years and this is a rebuilding year. We’ve been rebuilding for next to four seasons, and for many fans the frustration weighs on us immensely.

The Bed WT have made, needs to be slept in

If you read Marina Go’s article last week about the club’s cap, it paints a scary picture yet not one that should be a surprise to most of us that pay attention to this kind of thing. We continue to be hampered by back-ended contracts for players like Lawrence and Galloway and really are in no position to sign ‘big’ name players for next year, with 2017 looking to be the first year that we can start to actually offer reasonable contracts again.

The perpetual comment that WT fans love to churn out ‘We keep losing young stars and not signing anyone’ is just odd. I could understand the frustration if we didn’t already have youngsters in the squad but our current squad is full of our juniors. I could understand the frustration but the reality is we just cannot continue to introduce more and more young talent if we want to get anywhere near the Top 8 in the next 3 years.

I was sad to see Te Maire Martin go, the kid has a lot of promise yet I was by no means surprised. I wish TMM all the best and I’m glad he ended up at the Panthers as I at least do not despise that club. Yet people remain frustrated at the decision yet when you think about it, it makes no sense whatsoever to keep TMM given that we are going forward with Brooks and Moses. Moses has a lot to work on and yet he does continue to improve game by game. Why waste the precious games that we have played with him to develop him, only to have to start again with TMM?

One of my biggest frustrations has been reading the perpetual bagging of our young halves week in, week out. The Real Talk is that they have been far from our biggest problem, yet people continue to bag them because they’re easy targets. Those less aware of the games would focus on the halves and less so on say the forward pack which is where the games have really been lost. Galloway was constantly churning out 150 metres a game in the first six games. Since then, he’s not been close. Buchanan continues to be one of those ‘great reserve grade, average first grade’ players. Santi frustrates me and produce errors at turning points of games.

For some perspective, Ben Hunt has played some 130 games for the Broncos to Moses’ 26. I watch a lot of Broncos games with my mates and it honestly wasn’t until around game 85 or so (roughly) that Ben Hunt really developed into the game winning half that he is now. Some players are born with immense talent and don’t struggle to transition. Some take a little time. Moses will get there but we have to give him the game time to do so.

How does it get fixed?
Despite the results of the last few years, I continue to believe that the core squad we have are capable of winning a premiership in a few years’ time provided that the WT Staff and Board get their next couple of recruitment decisions right.In order of importance we need: An offloading second rower, a solid centre and a FRF to replace Galloway in 2017. Yet when you look at the talent pool of off contract players this year, there isn’t really that much impressive talent available in the open market and we just aren’t in a position to steal a player off another club by paying release fees. Frankly I’d rather see us not recruit than recruit another nuffie signing like the multitude of signings we made for 2012/2013. I’d keep Curtis Sironen ahead of making another Ed Pettyborne signing any day.

I’m sure JT continues to keep an eye on other teams and players and we have to give JT a chance. He’s made some mistakes, no doubt. Yet calls to overthrow the coach are ridiculous given the problems with our squads. I do believe that JT was the best available option for us coming into this year and we have to give him the chance to carry out his plans. I’ve seen fans criticise the club for not giving Mick Potter the ability to make enough of a mark on our roster yet would have JT booted in exactly the same circumstances. By the way, if you’re one of those muppets that thinks we should bring back Sheens, you are to WT fans what Nick Kyrgios is to sportsmanship.


It’s not all bad
We all may be incredibly frustrated and yet, it’s not as bad as it could be. At end of 2012 I was frustrated because I couldn’t see where the improvement was going to come from. Our roster was not set up to rebuild and there was no clear future for the team. This is where I see the Knights this year. Bennett may be a strong coach with a good roster yet he has a reputation of not setting up a club to rebuild. When you look at the Knights, they’ve not blooded their young guns well. Their recruitment decisions have not been based around setting up for the future and I find it hard to see where the improvement is going to come from with their Roster. Bennett will do the same to the Broncos when he leaves too.

I say this not to put the Knights down but to make a point. At least us Wests Tigers fans have some hope to cling to. A small amount of hope, but hope none the less. The cubs do have room to improve, if we’re patient enough. And let’s face it, we need to hold onto that glimmer of hope, otherwise we’d be putting remotes through TV’s.

It’s not easy being a Wests Tigers fan but ultimately, I couldn’t see myself supporting any other club.