Grumpy Old Men

Grumpy Old Men

How quickly things can change in Rugby League, hey? On Sunday evening and Monday morning I’d been working furiously at a blog post addressing the last few weeks under Taylor and the dreadful performances we’d seen. I’m not going to lie, I’m actually a little surprised that the club moved as quickly as they did to sack Jason Taylor, but I think it’s something that needed to happen at some point this year if the performances did not match the talk. However I don’t write this blog to dissect whether or not the decision was a good one, or the state of the team as it stands. Instead, to address the statements of old Club ‘Legends’ in the media in the wake of their decision.

Without giving too much away, I work in a very small industry. An industry where everybody knows somebody, and as such, an industry where you can never burn your bridges. You never know where you will bump into an old colleague, or who will know who.  I find it fascinating to look then at Rugby League as an industry comparative to mine and observe the behaviour of Club Legends of Old, whichever club they may come from.

The fine line that is balanced in Rugby League is this ‘Jobs for The Boys’ approach.  In some areas, ex-players can be invaluable. The work that Dene Halatau and Paul Whaturia do with Wests Tigers Wellbeing and Education team, or the likes of Ben Ross and other players within Men Of League. I could rattle off dozens of examples of ex-players providing value to the game. The problem with this mentality then also shows at the other end of the scale – Where some ex-players are not held to the same account as others in any other professional industry would be. Where their welcomes are overstayed because you “have got to look after the boys”. Where ex-players are placed into roles they aren’t trained suitably for, for the sake of looking after one another. Where ex-players utilise their positions of influence to gain a voice through the media to launch a diatribe at those that have ‘wronged them’, because you know… The Boys.  Unfortunately for us as fans and Wests Tigers as a club, Paul Sironen and Ben Elias find themselves at this end of the spectrum.

In a media environment where the media are looking for clicks and outrage it is no surprise that they seek out these individuals for comment. The Editors and Directors at FoxSports, ESPN and major networks all know that these players are almost always willing to comment on situations of club turmoil and conflict.  The reality is though that for every Elias or Sironen, there are just as many players like Ettingshausen or Clyde that more often than not refrain from comment in times of turmoil for their individual clubs.

The problem with this though in a saturated environment with almost constant commentary on the game, the likes of Sironen and Elias aren’t providing any insight into the situation that we don’t already know. While Rugby League analysts and commentators and absolutely have their moments, there is often well thought out and delivered opinions available at any given time (even if we don’t like what they have to say). For example, while he infuriates a lot of people, Paul Kent has had some very sensible, well thought out opinions on various aspects of the game in the last few years. Having said that, he is far and away best when he doesn’t have to talk about the Cronulla Sharks, who must have done some vast wrongs to him over time. So what are these ‘Club Legends’ adding at this time? In truth, not a lot.

In the immediate time after our Coach loses his job, Elias takes his fifteen minutes to get in front of the camera and blast the board and more specifically Marina Go for the decision made to sack Jason Taylor, and yet in the same interview, when pressed on whether the club siding with the “Big 4” instead of Jason Taylor (irrespective of whether or not this is actually the case) was the right thing to do, he could not have been more glowing stating the four were “100% the right players to be building the club around”, supporting his nephew (unsurprisingly). Further to this, it’s not surprise that Elias does hold some resentment at the appointment of Marina Go who’s appointment saw the dilution of Balmain representation at board level. It’s not hard to see the bias there.

Then there’s Paul Sironen. On top of his many games for Balmain, I’m sure you know that Paul was involved within the club in various duties over the last decade which came to an end after the Brian Smith review at the start of 2015. Despite the decision being a recommendation from Brian, Siro took to vent on Facebook against J.T which of course the media latched on to. It’s fair to say that his own departure from the club, together with Curtis being moved on to Manly (Who by his own admission said he needed a change) has left a sour taste in Siro’s mouth. It’s disappointing to me that a grown Man would act in such an unprofessional manner – Jason had just lost his job. Whether all the decisions he made were right or wrong, I genuinely do believe that everything Jason did came from a genuine conviction that he thought he was doing the right thing by the club. To me, Jason always conducted himself in the media with the upmost professionalism. Siro’s comments lack decorum, and reflect poorly on himself (especially with a son still at the club).

The factionalism and politics of the Wests Tigers across all levels has held the Club back from excellence for some time. The comments of Elias and Sironen continue to drive this division and there is no doubt in my own mind that while these divisions continue to exist that the club will always be held back from it’s true potential.  These opinions and agendas are not only harmful to the club, the players at the club but more importantly are harmful to the fans. We all sit here frustrated, annoyed, saddened by these events as our club continues to struggle. The comments from these players only further rub salt into the wounds.

The unfortunate thing is that it is entirely possible for Club Legends to deliver messages of frustration and anger at a club in the media in a manner that also shows respect to the fan base. You only need to look at how Peter Sterling has addressed Parramatta’s various woes over the years to see this as fact. The point of my message here is not that Club Legends should be denied an opinion on the state of play of our beloved club, or that they should be denied media access altogether. It’s important that the history of our joint venture is noted and acknowledged.

Utlimately Paul and Ben are living history.  They are Legends of a bygone era. Neither have any ongoing involvement in any decision-making capacity at the club, and their words offer no more insight than you or I. There’s a fine line that is walked when media choose to interview Club Legends and unfortunately it would seem that some of our legends lack the nuances required to deliver their message effectively, showing passion and concern for the club instead of just falling to personal attacks and vendettas which further dilutes the value of the message which is a shame because frankly, the Club, and its fans, deserve better.

2017 Season Kick-off

The long awaited season kick-off is almost upon us! So to get us in the mood the BWTF team are putting their thinking caps on and assessing what lies ahead for the Tigers in Season 2017.

1) This pre-season I’ve been most impressed with …

STEVE: “Jamal Idris has stated his intentions loud and clear. He’s matured. He’s motivated. And he’s ready to hit blokes hard. We’ve already got some fairly speedy backs, but now having some size out wide will be a handy addition. Hopefully he can sure up our edge defence which was embarrassing at times in 2016.”

BRAD: “The club culture on display. Let’s look past Kyle Lovett’s affection for nose candy and Tim Simona’s penchant for the punt – the club is doing and saying the right things in terms of moving on from Robbie Farah. Mitchell Moses has quickly established himself as a leader of the new generation, and you can’t help but be impressed by big Jamal Idris.”

ADAM: “Matt McIlwrick. From the press interviews it seems Matt is honest with himself and where he is positioned at the club. Matt understands the opportunity is there BUT he needs to take it and for that to be the case he needs to ward off a much hyped (and rightfully) Jacob Liddle and nudge out Matt Ballin. McIlwrick has impressed in previous opportunities with Canberra last year and with the right headspace, commitment to improve and opportunity it would not surprise if he was the fulltime hooker come round 20.”

2) 2017 will be a big year for …

ADAM: “I want to say BWTF as we move past 1600 members and welcome back Tiger Brad from his year with Toulon. But asked in regards to Wests Tigers, it has to be Matt Ballin right? In recent history Ballin has struggled to take the field, and without game time and solid contributions his time at the Tigers must be under threat. Hoping Ballin gets his body in shape and can repay the faith (in terms of performance) over the next 26 rounds. Being a betting man, I suspect Ballin will be a mid year trade or we will see him sitting on the scoreboard drinking ciders come round 20.”

STEVE: “Jason Taylor. The way the squad reacts to the ongoing contract saga will primarily be down to him. He didn’t create the situation we’re in but he’s one of the key blokes who can help steer us through it. This should have been the first year of many where all off-field rubbish was sorted out. But the fact that 2018 contract negotiations have been a constant story over the off-season fanned by the NRL gutter-press has been an unwanted sideshow. Jason Taylor’s leadership and motivation will need to come to the fore. And I have confidence – at this stage – that he will deliver.”

BRAD: “Every single person associated with the club. While culture is one thing, the time for talk is done and the Wests Tigers must produce on and off the field. There’s little room for error with a tough start to the season and contract negotiations sure to be played out in the media in one way or another. The club needs to produce more than promises of potential. The Tigers need wins and they need them from Round 1.”

3) Apart from James Tedesco’s contract, the thing I’m most nervous about this year is …

BRAD: “Another year based on potential and hope – I just can’t cop that anymore and I hope the club feels the same. Since 2005 we’ve suffered through more false dawns than an Arctic winter and it’s starting to get old. The Tigers have once again taken a minimalist approach to recruitment, but I’m fine with that. The roster has a solid mix of youth and experience and is perfectly poised to build on a solid finish to 2016.”

ADAM: “Brooks/Moses combination. Firstly, getting them on the field together has been a challenge over the past 12 months, and when they are Brooks seems to take a step back. Can the Brooks/Moses combination finally bear fruit or will it be a case of communism (looks good on paper). I struggle with the concept of ‘The Big 4’, as the Brooks/Moses combination performance question that lingers drives me to the calculation ‘Big 2’ (Tedesco, Woods) + Brooks or Moses – I guess ‘Big 2 + 1’ is more apt. Right now Woods, Tedesco, Moses have stronger claims than Brooks for the contact money. For mine Brooks is under pressure to retain his spot, with Littlejohn pressing hard. That said, I wish Brooks a break out year.”

STEVE: “D-fence! It’s been our Achilles heel for too long. We still had a soft underbelly last year and got rolled far too easily at times, conceding a 40-burger or worse on three occasions. That needs to change in 2017. It’s an attitude thing as well as a technique thing. Overall JT has definitely improved some of the technical aspects in defence that was so carelessly neglected under the Sheens’ tenure, but we still have a ways to go in regards to our attitude over the full 80 before we can compete with the genuine premiership contenders.”

4) After 26 rounds I expect Wests Tigers to finish …

BRAD: “I expect them to finish in the Top 8 – anywhere between first and eighth – but like I said this time last year, nothing would surprise me with the Tigers. We could be minor premiers, we could be wooden spooners. So much depends on the first five to six weeks of the competition and how we deal with adversity as a club both on and off the field. I’m cautiously optimistic of a strong season.”

STEVE: “7th or 8th. We definitely have the squad to reach a long awaited finals berth. A bit of luck with injuries and a confidence boost along the way with favourable resolutions to at least three of the most critical ‘Big 4’ contracts should mean we play footy in September. I think at least two from the Sharks, Bulldogs and Titans drop out, and we’ll likely be battling with the Roosters and Warriors to move into the 8.”

ADAM: “Right I am going to call it. Tigers did not ‘just miss’ the finals last year. They were WAY off the pace for most of the year, getting beaten by Newcastle TWICE, thumped by Canberra TWICE and showing little real competition to the top 4. Additionally, if Parramatta were not stripped of points we would have finished 10th. Significant improvement must be found, I don’t think Jason Taylor has the answers, but he would want to find them ASAP. After 26 rounds I expect Tigers to finish with a new coach (Ivan Cleary), with a new hooker McIlwrick, with three out of four ‘Big 4’ players renewed and with Joel Edwards being a starting forward. Terms of position on the ladder … I do not see 8th as a pass mark, I see 6th as a pass mark, and top 4 as a successful season. Anything but 9th would do me!”

Contractually Obliged

A few weeks ago, the BWTF admins started sending a few emails around about plans for the year ahead. Article ideas on the challenges ahead, things the club needs to do for a successful year, etc. Down the list somewhere, our contract situation was listed. I didn’t intend to be writing the first blog of the year about this issue, however with the speculation currently surrounding our club I thought it important to get on the front foot so here we are. I’ve got a couple of home truths in this post, but I think it’s important that these things are said.

Decade Defining Decisions

The thing that instils fear in all of us is how important it is that the club gets the decisions ahead of these contracts right. I don’t envy Justin Pascoe, Go or Taylor in the year ahead. The club will come under fire from media and fans alike. Despite this, it’s important to remember that this is their job. Should the club make incorrect decisions around recruitment over the course of this year, it will put to waste the last 5 years of underperformance in the hope of raising home grown talent and put a significant portion of us as fans offside.  We can only hope they nail it and for all our sake, re-sign James Tedesco.

Speculation isn’t going to go away

Unfortunately, with all our big four players (and several others from our club and every other club with the new salary cap coming in 2018) you have to be prepared for what will be months and months of endless speculation and regurgitation of rumours with every sports media avenue vying for their piece of the clickbait/outrage pie. Unfortunately, it’s just the way it is going to be. Tedesco will be linked to every club even in slight need of a fullback. There will be articles of ‘unrest’ in the team, and ‘tensions’ with JT all in the effort of getting your click. The best thing you can do is ignore it.

 

We are going to lose juniors, no matter how hard the club tries

The sheer reality is that with the number of locally grown juniors we have in our club at first grade level, we are going to lose players and it’s going to hurt when it happens regardless of who it is. The fact that as fans, we’ve sat through lean years for the sake of blooding juniors only to see them leave will hurt at times. It is the nature of the business of sport, unfortunately.

 

We don’t need to keep everyone, and we can’t overpay

This may not sit well with some of you, but it’s something that needs to be said. We don’t need to keep everyone. Despite heading into a new cap era, as a team we can just not afford to overpay juniors for the sake of getting them to stay with us. Without hesitation, you could name players from every premiership team in the last ten years that were key to the success of that premiership that had stayed for unders. Everyone compares our boys to the Big 3, who have all stayed since 2010 on slight unders. When your high calibre players say for even $150k less than their market value each, it quickly adds up to enough cap space to afford even one more quality player that can make a difference to being a premiership team or not. If the Big 4 aren’t willing to take a slight pay cut compared to market value to stay together, then we have to be comfortable in letting them walk. This isn’t to say we need to underpay them, but the club needs to be firm in understanding what the market is truly saying about our players.

Grant Mayer got fans onside in 2013/2014 by signing all of our juniors up to the long-term contracts we are now dealing with. As we all know, these contracts significantly hampered our cap space for 2015, 2016 and now 2017. We just can’t afford to be constrained like this again – it will put us five years further back on the quest for a premiership.

 

If all else fails, we have the ability as fans to make our feelings known through appropriate channels such as membership renewals next year. Until such time as all the dominos fall into place, know that it’s going to be a long year. But we at BWTF will be with you the whole way.

Farewell, Dene Halatau.

In my time writing for BWTF, our beloved club has said farewell to a lot of Players. Whether it be leaving for another team or retirements. This year and potentially this weekend, we farewell Dene Halatau from our game.

Dene debuted for Wests Tigers back in 2003.  Over the course of his career he’s played all over the park. He’s played everywhere from  Second Row to Lock and Hooker to name a few. You’d be forgiven for thinking he actually spent time at Hooker for us back in 2008 and for New Zealand internationally too. He’s the first player that comes to mind when someone says ‘Utility’ to me, and that’s really not a bad thing at all. A good utility player is invaluable to their team.

Whenever I can, I will take the opportunity to watch the classic matches from the 2002-2006 era of Rugby League. What is abundantly clear when you watch these matches is just how much the size and structure of forward packs have changed since then. Not only the size, but the role of certain positions (notably lock). Dene was very typical in size and structure to the well performing Locks at that time, but the game has changed significantly since then. That he has continued to be able to perform ten years later at the highest level is nothing but a credit to him.

Dene has admitted himself that he has never been the fastest or most flashy player going around, as if it’s some sort of slight on himself. To be perfectly honest, I admire these kinds of players more than the most naturally gifted ones. Because simply put, they don’t get there on skill alone. Blake Austin described himself in a similar fashion a few years back. These players get there on determination, perseverance and hard work. You don’t play 14 seasons in the NRL by accident.

Dene does what the team needs him to do, and never complains about it. I’ve never seen Dene whinging in the media, ever. When Dene replaced Robbie at Hooker a couple of months ago, he even answered to the media that it was a little bit ‘awkward’, but despite this he acknowledged the job he had to do. He’s done it without complaint and in my opinion, has done a damn fine job for us the last few years. From my own career experience, I can’t stress how valuable it is to have people on your team that just get stuck in and do what is asked of them. I have no doubt that if you were to ask any other Player from our team they would tell you that they’re damned thankful to have Dene lining up next to them.

Not to be undermined as well is the continual work Dene does for Communities and Charities. Mary Kaye from Ladies Who League attended a literacy program with Dene last year and she spoke to me about her time with him. “I had the pleasure of meeting Dene Halatau when he came to my workplace to meet some students from Sarah Redfern Primary and High Schools. Dean spoke passionately and eloquently not only about his achievements on his field, but on the importance of education and the variety of roles he performs off the field including as an NRL State of Mind Ambassador and his role with the RLPA. He was extremely impressive and on every subsequent occasion I have seen him Dene has been committed to engaging with the community and particularly kids that look up to him. During his career Dene has been a leader by example and has been a credit to not only the Wests Tigers but also to his community. I am honoured to have had the opportunity to work with him and I wish him all the best for the future. I hope the Tigers send him off with a win.”

I am not at all surprised by Mary’s words. In this day and age where it seems there’s off field incidents four times a week, Dene has never placed the game in disrepute. Not one single off field incident in the media. This speaks volumes of the character of the man.

Whatever the future holds for Dene, I hope that he remains involved in Rugby League in some capacity. Many of the younger players of today could learn a lot about how to properly conduct themselves both personally and professionally. Thanks must go to his Wife Rochelle as well, for all the support she has given Dene over the years in order to help him stay on the field for as long as he has. I sincerely hope we win this weekend and go deep into the finals, to give Dene his 250th game. He deserves nothing less.

Dene, Rugby League and the Wests Tigers will be poorer for your absence. I wish more Rugby League players were like you. Regardless of how our season turns out from here, I am thankful from the bottom of my Black, White and Orange bleeding heart that you’ve represented our Club. Thank you.

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The Run Home

It’s been a good few weeks if you’re a Tigers Fan. We’ve won four of our last six games, and have consolidated well given the slump we found ourselves in our Round 8 thumping by the Raiders. Mitch Moses came out on the weekend stating  “We know we can match it with anyone…we just need to be more consistent.  Our goal is to make the Top 8”. This year would be our fifth year without a finals appearance, and would be a welcome development to us all, I’m sure. Given our inconsistency this year though, you have to ask – Is it achievable? Is it even possible?

I thought it would be a good time to evaluate the chances of the teams competing for the remaining 4 spots in the Top 8, and the run home after the finals. To know our own chances, we have to also understand the teams around us. The analysis that follows is very stats heavy, so if you’re not about the stats life, have a look at the summary paragraph for my conclusion. Before we get into it, I’ll state some caveats here:

  • While currently 5th, I have assumed that Parramatta will be excluded from finals contention after having their points stripped. This obviously may change, but it’s the call I’ve made.
  • Despite excluding Parra from the race, I’ve treated them as a Top 8 opponent given their ladder position currently and wins this year.
  • Newcastle are no chance.
  • I assume the Top 4 is locked. Even if 4th slips to 5th, I doubt any of them fall out of contention altogether.

This left ten teams. You can see a snapshot of the statistics that I evaluated below. Wins and losses were broken up into Home and Away records, Top and Bottom 8 teams. The remaining games were mapped out into these categories, and from that, I have established a degree of difficulty for each team and their run into the finals. I’ve not gone as far as predicting actual number of wins, but utilised the statistics for 2016 so far to try and map the chances of each team.  As this is BWTF, I’ll keep the analysis with a WT slant and summarise my findings for other teams.


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The teams with the hardest runs home of the possible teams is the Roosters, followed by the Rabbitohs. They both have nine games left against Top 8 opponents, and both feature an incredibly poor win record against Top 8 teams so far, with 0% and 25% respectively.  Barring any significant miracle run of events, these teams will not participate in finals football.

The Bulldogs and Warriors have the most favourable runs home, with only 4 and 5 games left against Top 8 opponents, and reasonable enough win records against them of 29%. It should be noted that given how ‘top heavy’ the table is this year, 43% is the best Win percentage of any team in contention against Top 8 teams, which is held by the Raiders. Both the Bulldogs and Warriors have a great win percentage against Bottom 8 teams. With these factors combined, I think both these teams go around 5th and 6th respectively.  This assumes of course that Warriors don’t have some sort of brain explosion and decide to give up on their season (always a possibility with NZ).

The Sea Eagles have got a slightly more favourable draw than us, however have a horrible win record of 13% against Top 8 Teams, and 14% at Home this year. With 6 games against Top 8 opponents remaining, and their devastating injury toll, I think they run out of steam and settle in around 13th pace.

This leaves Penrith, the Raiders, Dragons, Titans and Wests Tigers fighting it out for 7th and 8th spot.  The Raiders and Penrith have the best and second best record against Top 8 teams.  Penrith have the slight edge as far as away win percentage goes, but it is rather hard to distinguish who will finish ahead of the other team. Removing the Penrith Biscuit Bias, I find it hard to say that either of these teams will miss the Top 8 as it stands.

This leaves Dragons, the Titans and Wests Tigers. The Titans have a reasonable win record both at and away from home this year, but the struggle for them comes in their 25% win record against Top 8 teams, which is less than Penrith and Canberra. They only have one game left at home against a Bottom 8 team. The Dragons have a sensational 83% win record at Home, but have got a shocking 14% Away record and with 5 games left against Top 8 teams at 33%, it will be touch and go.

WT face an uphill battle based on the statistics. 7 of the remaining 10 games are against Teams currently in the Top 8. It is worth clarifying that 4 of these games are against the Warriors, Penrith (twice) and Canberra at Leichhardt (potentially a Robbie Farahwell???? Puns are great). But with just a 17% win ratio against Top 8 teams, it will be a hard slog.

Are we in with a chance at all?

Funnily enough, the position of the team looks far more encouraging when you account for remaining byes left and current record. After accounting for byes, there’s a five way log jam with teams on 16 points. With the Dragons having a worse F/A, we jump above them a touch.

In previous years, 28 points has been the needed standard to make the finals. I do think that given the Top 4 heavy nature of the competition this year, it may be possible that 8th place gets in on 26 points, which would help us out. However, given our F/A you would not want to be counting on that. In order to make the finals, WT really need to be winning 6 of their last 10 games and while I’ll always be hopeful, I’m just not sure it’s there this year.

Final Prediction: We will rue the games in the season that really should have been won.  Finish 11th, on 26 points.

Summary – Predicted Mini Ladder:

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BREAKING: Eels Trio Sign with Wests Tigers

It’s been a strong week for Wests Tigers as far as signings go. Late last week, Josh Aloiai was rewarded for his excellent early season form with an extension for 2017. Elijah Taylor joined the club on Monday, completing our back row and Tim Simona extended his deal for next year as well.

It’s not often we here at BWTF can provide you with exclusives, but we’ve been told by a source close to the team that these signings will be bolstered by the addition of 3 Parramatta players as the board look to dramatically shed off contract players to provide desperately needed salary cap relief.

We had heard some rumours yesterday afternoon which was then Bolstered by the NRL Rumour Account the NRL Agent who confirmed on twitter:

Parramatta Hookers Nathan Peats, Kayasa Pritchard and Isaac De Gois will join the club with immediate effect. Peats and Pritchard will be signed until the end of 2018, and De Gois will see out the season.

De Gois seemed pleased to find out he will return to WT. “I’m so glad I get to go out at the club that started it all for me. I look forward to repaying the club for the opportunity.”, he said. Isaac was also happy to come to a club where the Manager of Football Operations buys Pizza for the players after games. “Buckets told me I could order Pepperoni thin n crispy and get some Coronas too. Pretty stoked really.”

While Pritchard and Peats were unavailable for comment at this time, Coach Jason Taylor was over the moon. “We should be able to run 6 Hookers in our squad for Round 10 and I think that is great. The future is really exciting for Wests Tigers.”

For more exclusives, stay tuned to BWTF.

 

 

 

 

This is a satire article. 

The line in the sand

I’m going to preface this article by stating that I know that not everyone will agree with me and the points I will raise. For the fans are continuing to stay strong through the shambles that is our club, I applaud you.

I don’t have the strength left to do so. I’ve simply had enough.

Earlier in the year, I was listening to a podcast called NRL Boom Rookies (available on iTunes) when one of the podcast hosts, Dale called out that continuing to have a membership of the Wests Tigers is a vote to continue support of the administration of the club and it’s actions. While the comment initially irked me; it made sense. At the end of last year I was insanely frustrated with the club, and my renewal would not convey that message. I determined that I would wait 6/7 rounds, to see what would change and if WT deserved my membership.

The 6 weeks have passed and I made my decision not to renew my membership for this year. I cannot stand behind the current administration the club and the decisions that they continue to make. In a way, this is a trial separation between myself the football club that I love so much.

Put simply, I can no longer bear the incompetence that the club continues to demonstrate.

On my first attempt to write this, I listed down the key decisions and errors of the club for the last four and a half years but the simple reality is the Tigers Fans know the details. How the club has let Player managers drag the club through the dirt in the media (Marshall and Farah Contract / Coach dramas), highlighted by our CEO going AWOL for four days. That for every Taupau or Austin recruitment there was ten Tom Humble, Cory Paterson, Keith Lulia, Ed Pettyborne, Ray Cashmere decisions. Horrendous internal retention decisions, highlighted by Ayshford, Farah, Moltzen and keeping Groat over Fifita. Our on field results unfortunately speak for themselves. Finishes since 2012 are hardly pretty reading: 10th, 15th, 13th, 15th.

Our off field management becomes even more frustrating when you hear Mick Potter state that he had very, very limited input on roster decisions. Not allowing your head coach to heavily influence or drive recruitment is absurd. Almost as absurd as signing two rookie halves to 4 year deals that had yet to play a game of first grade.

Then Jason Taylor comes on the scene asking members and fans with a plan. A process. I wanted to believe in JT so much, it’s actually hard to put into words. We would start well, winning 3 of our first 5 games. We would then win only 5 of the next 21 rounds. He tries to move on Robbie Farah (rightly or wrongly) and is made to be the court fool when the Club Board failed to support the move and decision, and is instead left to go hat in hand to the players, asking for forgiveness.

After an enormous amount of talk over the off season how JT was going to remove the reigns and “let the boys play footy”, we now find ourselves in round 6 this year with a 2/4 record. More alarming than our current record is JT’s team selections. Jack Buchanan has literally done nothing in his 41 first grade appearances to deserve continued selection but keeps getting selected. Milone does nothing in 3 games last year but earns another go last round. We do have the depth there to make changes. Griffin, Graham, JGrant and MCK are all deserving of a shot but instead of making the sweeping changes we need, JT sticks with the safest possible change to the squad. How Milone was picked again is beyond me. JT also doesn’t appear to know how to properly use a 4 man bench – our 17th man is perpetually getting sub 20 minute stints. What’s the point?

I said at the start of the year that Brooks needed to step his game up. Unfortunately his 50th game this weekend was utterly inept. He turned over the ball with two horrendous errors (one of which leading to a Knights try), poor 5th tackle options (which have plagued him seemingly his whole career) and poor defensive reads. Yet among all this, he and Moses are chasing $650-800k plus TPAs. Can anyone tell me why Brooks deserves even half that right now? Because I cannot see it. At all.

What also concerns me is how Chris Lawrence’s contract option for next year would leave us tight on cap space. How? Where is all the money going? Where does that leave us when we need to sign Tedesco, especially if we do keep Moses and Brooks on the money they’re after?

In 2014, I saw something special in our young players. I told the other BWTF admins that if we kept out shit together, we could push and be Top 4 in 2017. That it would take some time but it would be worth it. Right now, that seems like the most delusional thought I’ve had in my life. I’m almost resigned to the fact that we will lose the best Cubs that we have, and that we will overpay for the dregs.

We have some really big recruitment decisions to make in the next 12 months or so regarding our Cubs and unfortunately, I just don’t have the faith that we will make the right ones. To make it even better, we are going to be at a point where we have to overpay to get external talent to the club because of instability and poor results, and you better believe another club out there will offer Teddy $850k to $1 million, and I just can’t see us matching it.

One of our good mates and long term contributor to BWTF has given up on Wests Tigers. To paraphrase “all talk and no action for years now, and our culture is rotten to the core.” Really, I can’t blame him. I try to be a positive person in life but I just can’t see the position of the club improving within the next 4/5 years.Yet despite all the years of pain, WT has cracked it’s highest membership number this year with 12,000 members. That’s 12,000 fans stating that they support the actions of the club. 12,000 ‘Yes’ votes when the club is in drastic need of a few ‘No’s’. I would say something needs to change but the fact is many, many things need to change.

It’s a bloody hard slog being a WT fan. I’ve tried to be the positive fan for too long. I’m sick of having to defend the poor decisions of my team both on and off field. So I’m voting the only way I can, with my feet.

2016 Season Kick-off

Kick-off for our 2016 season is one week away! With three Nines games and two NRL trials in the bank, it’s time for the BWTF team to put their reputations on the line and assess where the Wests Tigers are placed heading into Season 2016. We won’t be at full strength for Round 1, but what has the season as a whole got in store for us?

1) This pre-season I’ve been most impressed with …

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Tedesco

SCOTT: “Apart from Farah, the lack of key injuries so far. Our attack also looks quite sharp, with James Tedesco playing a major role in making the opposition defence wait to see what he is going to do which allows more time for our halves to ball play. I’m impressed with our back-line and centres especially. Need to see more from the forwards.”

STEVE: “Jesse Sue. Now a member of the leadership group and our regular starting lock after Taupau’s departure, Sue has looked particularly good so far. He was a consistently strong performer in the Nines and had plenty of powerful runs in the Sharks trial, plus a great try-saver cover tackle. The new interchange rules will also suit him as he can play long minutes.”

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Nofoaluma

CHRIS: “It’s hard to go past Jesse Sue, but since Steve has covered him, I’m going to go for my next option: David Nofoaluma! It’s amazing to think that he’s just 22. Our winger had a very average 2015 with injury, but the signs from everything I have seen so far have been nothing short of inspired. I don’t know that our defence will be where it needs to be in order to make the Top 8, but Moses and Brooks have had their leash lengthened by JT and in turn have provided plenty of service to Nofa. He’s the quickest I’ve seen him look since debut and is breaking lines and tackles everywhere. Not to mention that he’s had some great one on one defensive reads and has had great goal line defense. 2014 saw Tim Lafai shine. 2015 was the year of Semi. 2016 will be the year of DAVID NOOFOOLUMA!”

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Moses

BRAD: “Points scored, longer leashes and the death of Taylor Ball. It counts for zero until the season proper kicks off but the likes of Brooks, Moses and Teddy – I’ll also throw Simona, Nofo and Big Kev into the mix – need to play what’s in front of them. There will be plenty of high scoring games on both sides of the ball – see the Sharks trial – but I’ll take that over the disastrous attacking outings of last season. RIP, Taylor Ball.”

ADAM: “I have been most impressed with the Tigers talking up a big game in winning back the fans in the West. I think for the long term of the club they need to make the West a strong hold for the club and really commit to community more so in the past. Good signs to see the partnership with Campbelltown Council for the streaming of the trial game last weekend. There is great suburban footy ground there with excellent transport links let’s hope to fill it more often.”

2) Of our new recruits, I’m most excited about …

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Ballin

ADAM: “Matt Ballin is my signing of the year. And even though he has not laced up a boot as yet, the challenge has well and truly been laid out to Farah and the team in general. Putting pressure on Farah may see his game improve (let’s face it he is a great player but has not had the strongest 18 months). Further I think Taylor may have shown just a little bit that he may go to a highly mobile team for periods during the game under the new interchange rules. I also think we’ve done well with players we have released. Marty ‘seems’ to be a big loss on paper and he did have some big moments, but he also possessed the ability to have monumental brain fades and can be guilty of only running one line – unless he adds to his game at Manly he is somehow considered a one trick pony / draught horse!”

SCOTT: “Our upstairs department! No club functions when admin is out of control. I see a concerted effort to change the ‘let’s sweep it under the carpet’ mentality. As for players Matt Ballin is a big purchase for many reasons. We now have 3 fantastic hookers. We ‘could’ move Robbie to lock with Ballin and Cherry main hookers. His work ethic, professionalism and workman like attitude is a big plus.”

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Aloiai

STEVE: “Josh Aloiai. I didn’t know much about him when he was signed late last year from Parramatta’s U20 squad. I saw a number of Eels fans were upset he left, so that was a promising indication. But his trial performances were definitely eye-catching. He’s a big unit and boy can he lay on a hit! He looks to have wrapped up a bench spot for the NRL team, likely to rotate at lock with Sue.”

CHRIS: “Tim Grant. I know plenty have rubbished this signing for us but I think he is a great replacement for Keith Galloway. I still believe that the best spot for Seeyoulaterfunguy is on the bench, hitting tired packs with speed and offloads. Having Tim in our side provides a proven first grader who can start and do a more than capable job. He may not be the most spectacular prop going around but the guy can produce large minutes and I believe he was used entirely incorrectly at Souths last year. We’re not exactly paying the guy a lot and I believe that we will be thankful we had him, come the end of Round 26.”

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Addo-Carr

BRAD: “Josh Addo-Carr. You know what you’re getting with Tim Grant, Matt Ballin and Joel Edwards. Justin Hunt doesn’t move the needle and Jordan Rankin is nothing more than a young journeyman. Addo-Carr has electrifying speed and athleticism to go with more than a touch of lair and lout. His defence looks dusty but the former Shark could form a deadly combination with Simona, Nofo and Big Kev and gives the halves another genuine target with the ball.”

3) 2016 will be a big year for …

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Sue

CHRIS: “Jesse Sue. Everyone talks about the loss of Martin Taupau, but I believe that by the end of this year Sue will have a similar cult status with Wests Tigers fans. I think that he will don the 13 and play as a 3rd ‘middle forward’ that some coaches use their Lock as. He is fit as and can play big minutes. He has an offload in his game and while he may not quite be as openly aggressive as Taupau, he has a few less penalties and errors in him too.”

STEVE: “James Tedesco. Even before the Sharks trial I was thinking that Tedesco would have a big year. His phenomenal game last Saturday night all but cemented it. He will be the NSW Origin fullback, Dally M Fullback of the Year, and a decent shout for NRL top try scorer. He’ll top NRL try-assist category, at least! He’s our best attacking weapon and was our most consistent player in a mostly disappointing team in 2015. He looks to have only gotten better in the offseason. We saw what his great combinations with Brooks could achieve in patches early last year, and in Saturday’s trial. If we see that on a week-in week-out basis in 2016 we’ll be in good shape. Let’s face it, it’s now or never for this spine to deliver on their potential at the top level. Both Moses and Brooks have some big contract decisions due mid-year for 2017 and beyond, and I think their successful attacking combinations with Tedesco in a winning team will go a long way to deciding their fate.”

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Simona

SCOTT: “In addition to our spine of the team, I think Timmy Simona. I believe his strength in defence and attack is top notch. I think if he stays fit he will be our most crucial player because of 2 reasons. 1: last year our biggest weakness was our defence in the centers when our first string players where injured. 2: he’s very strong and fast in attack, he reads the game very well and is one of our main strike weapons.”

ADAM: “I will focus on who needs a big year. For me it is Dene Halatau. He could be seen as a 3rd or even 4th option at hooker, with the Tiger’s now seeing some talent move through in the backrow. Dene is seen as a utility but even in this role he is under heavy competition. Unless somehow Dene finds a way to make the very most of his opportunities he may find himself in NSW Cup more often then he would like, and probably deserves. Another in this category is Curtis Sironen, he has now had a few seasons under his belt and needs to become the damaging force that his early potential showed. Moving from 5/8 to the forwards may have been a challenge, but he has now been solely in the forwards for over 2 seasons. Time for Curtis to move from being ‘promising’ and a ‘standard’ first grader to becoming a stand out player we know he can be. Personally I suspect that to have a great year the Tigers need Curtis to lead the way.”

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Sironen

BRAD: “Curtis Sironen. Maybe not a ‘big’ year as much as a ‘career defining year’. There are no excuses for Siro in 2016 – he knows where he’s playing and he knows what’s expected of him. Siro has seduced us with potential for far too long, a barnstorming run here and a huge hit there followed by a crucial dropped ball and a soft arm grab. Siro needs to show some consistency in terms of his aggression, focus and commitment.”

4) After 26 rounds I expect Wests Tigers to finish …

BRAD: “Anywhere between unbeaten minor premiers and winless wooden spooners. I honestly have no idea what to expect from this lot. A slow start to the season will see JT under all sorts of pressure, talk surrounding the futures of Brooks and Moses will intensify, and R. Farah could spontaneously combust. A solid start to the season will see talk of fools’ gold, dreams of a top eight finish, and R. Farah could spontaneously combust. We best buckle up.”

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Lawrence

SCOTT: “I see us scraping into the 8th position. Looking at pre-season, the theory of scoring more then the opposition, I think we can. We have more possible position changes if injuries occur. If our defence can stay positive and brutish we will go better then 8th. But reality I can’t see our defence improving until we start enjoying defence and putting in those extra 1-2% efforts. Bring on the 2016 finals.”

ADAM: “I have invested my solid $5 on premiers (just in case). I think the Tigers would call the year successful to qualify for the finals without for and against, so that would mean 6th is a successful year. I would suggest any lower than 13th and Jason Taylor might be lining up at Cambelltown Centrelink. Heart aside, and to answer the question without going Turnbull, I believe 8th/9th depending on for and against.”

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Woods

STEVE: “Mid-table. Obviously it’s really hard to gauge how all the teams are travelling at this stage of the year with heaps of offseason player movements and variable-strength squads in trials. But I’ve seen enough from the Tigers so far to expect significant improvement over 2015’s equal-last finish. Seriously, if we don’t I’ll probably suffer an aneurysm. JT has loosened the reigns on Moses and Brooks, so if we can continue to improve our discipline in defence and injuries are kind, we have enough points in us to win a good chunk of games. The squad looks well balanced on paper – better than last year at least. We’ve purged some of deadwood and from what I’ve seen in the trials we have better quality depth across the field, especially in the backrow and outside backs. We should also be able to avoid our traditional Origin-period slump this year. Somewhere around 10th feels like something this team should be capable of at least.”

CHRIS: “12th. The year will have it’s frustrating moments, it’s great ones and will overall be improved on the last couple of years but WT will be at the bottom of the usual ‘8th spot log jam’ based on for and against.”

Time to Spine

This year, the expectations of every Rugby League commentator and fan of other club seems to have Wests Tigers booked to finish in 16th, if not 15th spot. If you’re reading this there is every chance you bleed Black, White and Orange and these comments sting as if someone is insulting your very own Mother. Face it, with our performance record since 2012 it’s not exactly an unfair assumption to make. So, what could be different about this year? Are the Wests Tigers capable of surprising 95% of the Rugby League community?

When you look at our recruitment decisions over the off season, they have been made almost entirely based around our current salary cap restraints. While these moves have not exactly been exciting, they have provided the club with Players that are hungry to cement spots in first grade and I quite like that. However while our cheaper buys in recent years have brought us Martin Taupau and Blake Austin, they also brought us Cory Paterson, Ed Pettyborne and Matt Bell. If we’re to succeed in 2016 we can’t be reliant upon Michael Chee-Kam or Jordan Rankin having break out years. Again, I wish those players every bit of luck, but they’re not the answer.

Simply put, it’s the Wests Tigers time to spine.

I’ll exclude James Tedesco from our discussions as I think that after his 2015 season, you can hardly criticise his playmaking and what he brings to our team. My focus instead moves on to Brooks, Moses and Farah.

With the better part of the last two years embroiled in coach problems that have been widely covered through the media, Robbie Farah insists that he is ‘back to loving Footy again’ and has a weight off his shoulders after being relieved of the captaincy. I covered in one of my last pieces of last year that I thought it was time for Farah to move on, having barely played any of the Footy that we know he is capable of within the last 18 months or so. Now that he is relieved of the captaincy, and standing firm after the club offered him the ability to find a new footy home the simple fact is that we have to start seeing his best footy from him again. He currently is the Tigers marquee player, and he needs to play like it. Let’s hope that this year sees him play the attacking footy we know he can, while managing to give Brooks and Moses time to shine.

With Brooks and Moses having the option in their favour to extend into 2017, we could potentially be paying the two a rumoured $1.3 million next year if they stay. I don’t actually have too much of a problem with that, when Moses Mbye is supposedly commanding $800k himself, and DCE is on close to the same amount on his own. I’ve seen fans judging this rumoured pay packet on their 2015 performances, which is pretty grossly unfair. $650k is pretty reasonable for any decently performing half in the NRL. However it looks expensive very quickly if Brooks & Moses don’t grow their game.

Mitch Moses cops a little less heat from me than he may cop elsewhere. Rugby League fans love to throw Mitch under the bus, but he’s only played 34 games so far and spent more than his fair share of games at fullback in 2014 while Teddy was injured. I must say that in my opinion, Moses improved his game a lot in the back half of last year. If he continues to apply JT’s supposed new game plan and can continue to grow his game, he will be a more than serviceable half.

Brooks has a little less leeway in my eyes. In 2013, I watched him absolutely dominate the U20’s Origin game with brilliant attack and a good kicking game. By Round 6 this year, Luke Brooks hits the 50 game mark which is already longer than the average NRL Career. If he stays fit, he hits around 68 games this season which is very quickly creeping towards Veteran status. I know he is 21, but game experience is far more important than his age. In my opinion, his age is quickly becoming irrelevant. Anthony Milford is also 21, currently on 69 games and performing well. Billy Slater debuted at 19 and was playing Origin at age 20. If Brooks is going to become of one the game’s best halves, his development will have to find another gear this year.

Wests Tigers played Blackjack by banking on Moses and Brooks developing into first grade players. The dealer has 17 on the table, and Moses and Brooks could easily be the 4 we need, or come up bust. I’m not going to be the first person this year that says they need to step up – but I’m not saying they can’t. It’s time to see what they’re made of.

The Halfback and Forth – It’s gone Farah ’nuff

What interesting times we find ourselves in! I never would have thought that this time yesterday, I’d be having to write a blog on the potential departure of Robbie. I’m going to start off by saying that I absolutely believe that right now, it’s what needs to happen and is a good move for the club.

Over the last few weeks, it’s become apparent to me that Farah’s best years are potentially behind him. Over the last three weeks Farah has averaged just 62 run metres, has made 5 errors, 2 penalties and averaged 73 kick metres. To his credit, he has made a bunch of tackles but some of his penalties and errors have come at crucial points of the games and he just looked flat on the weekend. To me it felt like this year was probably the first time that I was willing to admit that it seemed like Farah had made Origin more of a priority than the Club and I think it’s showing at the end of the season.
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