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.

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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.

I committed tipping suicide…..now I pay.

Dear Laurie, who art in heaven holy be his name.
“Yes my lost Tiger fan, speak your confession”
“Laurie, today I tipped against the Tigers”
Now Laurie drops the line and I am alone. Except for the synchronous chant of all others in this household tipping comp chastising my decisions and question my loyalty and price tag for a sell out.

So much so, a Roosters membership link was sent to me.

I beg the question, is tipping against ones side wrong? Am I a fool?

Laurie, please pick up the phone, or come back to our blog (we know you’re an avid reader) and here my justification.
Quite frankly Laurie, I simply have the shits.

For weeks I have watched Sterlo, Matty Johns, even listened to Tallis spew his thoughts on the game looking for a clue – I don’t do Channel 9 Footy Show as it is like a baboon throwing his own faeces on my TV screen and the remote is my Kleenex. Anyway, I watch and listen hoping some “expert” will have the answers, and the only thing that dawns on me is I have been doing this for years.We have changed coaches, scrubbed the Board and gone broke nearly more times than Lawrence has scored this year.Yes, I know we have a young team, I understand we have developing halves and I know it takes time.But you know what else I know, the longer the fuse the bigger the bomb! This is me exploding.

Do I think we can beat Souths, no I don’t. I have watched us play the last month and it has been woeful, even when we have a massive lead (e.g Canberra) we lose. Even when we have a team on the ropes we somehow lose.

So my tip, my one lonely way to speak the truth – my tip is Souths will win. If you think I should “tip with my heart” your welcome to those lovely sentiments, but this is not a game of Hearts, save that for when you alone on the computer with no internet on some crap domestic flight.

It is a game of passion, bravery and pride. I am a proud Tigers fan, and I am passionately pissed off, and I feel brave to state it, against what repercussions might come.

Now – Laurie, Friday night comes, and I sit down on the edge of the couch, dog at feet and heater not far away. Laurie, do reckon once I will cheer the cardinal and myrtle foe. No. Not bloody once, and I can only pray, by the graces of the old gods and the new, or the god of light or whoever that for once I can cheer the Tigers home, I lose my tip and next week I am back on the wagon.

Right now – can’t see it.

So my tip Laurie, please take it as a lonely vote of protest. Protest against a issue for which I do not know the cause. Protesting not against the players, the coach or the Establishment, just a protest that we are not winning, have not won in ages and I want one.

If it not next week it better be against Manly.

So punter, in Laurie’s absence you judge me. Would you ever tip against the Tigers?

The Golden Point – Round 10

Round 10 marked an incredibly frustrating loss, that left most of us either incredibly angry or incredibly bitter. For most of us, the wounds of 2013 and 2014 are all too recent to forget when performances like that occur and suddenly we find ourselves wondering if anything has really changed. While we could sit here and tear the game to shreds and open the wounds it is important to review the game and see what really happened.

What We Liked

Early on in the year the Tigers were finding ways to win games despite less than spectacular games from Brooks and Moses. Being so young and inexperienced they are easy targets for blame and while Moses did miss a disappointing 9 tackles, their kicking game has improved substantially. Brooks had 361 kick metres, and Moses 222. That’s an improvement of 52m from Moses, and 175m from Brooks off Round 9.
In addition Moses had some runs that I thought were some of his best attacking phases all year. If Moses can take upon himself to run the ball a little more, I think our attack will benefit greatly from it.

I can’t finish this section without mentioning Tedesco. Man is that kid something special. This isn’t exactly news to us die hards, but his stats were impressive. 146 run metres (second only behind Woodsy), 1 Try Assist and 6 Tackle breaks. I can’t get enough of the kid and in my honest opinion, losing him to Origin would’ve dealt the Tigers a bigger blow than the absence of Robbie Farah in his current form.

What we didn’t like

There’s so many things we could look at here in terms of blame. While he did do a fair bit of tackling, Nofo was truly under-done and it showed in the first half. As the game went on he did improve, but his defensive lapse cost us the first try and made some errors at crucial times. However, he’s not the biggest factor in the loss for me.

Simply put, we lost the game in the forwards. I tweeted after the game on Sunday Night the Run Metres of all forwards, and was honestly disgusted to see that Woods was the only forward to crack over 90 metres. Siro was our second best starting forward with 67 metres but that’s pitiful. This for me is the difference between this game and the first 5 games of the season. Our forwards were standing up and laying down a platform. These players will need to find form and fast if our team is any chance of being anywhere near the Top 8 come Round 26.

The Glimmer of Hope

Most of us have our heads down at the moment after the string of losses but it’s not all bad news, fans. Six of our next seven games are at home and our opponents include a heavily depleted Cowboys, Reynolds and Inglis-less Rabbitohs, Titans, Panthers and Eels with our toughest game being R15 against the Eagles.

Let’s hope our boys can get some wins together and build some momentum.

Thoughts from the Bench

TravelPig – There are glimmers of hope but unless they all shine at once we cannot be a star. Inconsistency and getting it right on the day is what matters. I am not a fan of warming up on the ground, I believe it removes some of the intensity a team can bring when they run down the tunnel and hear the crowd for the first time at the game. But we have fewer injuries so JT knows best. Lack of concentration also looks like lack of desperation. I am not sure which but each week Tigers are good for 1 or 2 soft tries simply through misreads or goofy mistakes.

OneEyed – I’m struggling to stay positive after that Knights performance. It was the bad old days re-revisited. What’s it going to take for this team to play smart? JT is clearly an intelligent man, but the culture at our club is proving very difficult to change from the latter years of the Sheens era. Saturday’s game versus a severely depleted Cowboys team is simply a must-win. No excuses whatsoever. I’m really not a fan of these Origin-effected split rounds, but if it helps us get a much needed win I’ll take it this weekend.

TigerBrad – A wise man said something to me this week and it really hit home. I may be paraphrasing, but it went like this: “Only two seasons matter for Wests Tigers fans – 2005 and next season.” To me, it’s deja vu all over again. I hope I’m wrong, but 2015 has a familiar feel to it. No consistency in attack, forwards getting totally dominated and soft tries being scored against us. On another note, Chris Lawrence is embarrassing himself. He has to go.

Let’s hope our boys turn things around tonight.

The Golden Point – Round 8

Round 8 saw our boys produce a great win against the admittedly under-staffed Bulldogs. We here at BWTF thought we’d have a deeper look now that the dust has settled. What did the game tell us about our team, what needs work, and a brief thought on the game ahead.

Opening Whistle
This week’s win was an important one for the team. Being such a young team, confidence will play a major role in how our season progresses. Off the back off two losses especially with the way in which we lost against the Raiders, a win was a lot more important than I think some of us may have been willing to admit.

What we liked
There’s a lot we could talk about here. Patty’s penalty goal & Kevvy’s awesome try assist are right up there, but this humble blogger thinks that we need to focus past the news headlines. The things I liked started before kick off, with JT making some tough calls regarding the squad composition. I’ve thought that Lawrence should probably have moved to the second row a good season or two ago and I wonder if JT is realising the same thing. Lawrence hit some good lines and while wasn’t ‘amazing’ I think with time he could become a solid fringe second row bench option.

On top of that, Moses and Brooks’ kicking game was much improved in previous weeks. I’ll also add that Faf has taken back more of the kicking in recent weeks, which has meant we’ve found more ground time but both the kids had better boots than what we’d seen all season. I can’t finish this segment without giving a deserved mention to Delouise Hoeter. The kid has taken his opportunity in both hands and didn’t let anyone down.

And what we loved? I’ll just leave this photo here.
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What we didn’t like
While I did enjoy the shift of Lawrence to the bench, I can’t help but feel that having a bench that contains both Halatau and Lawrence leaves us a little light on against some of the bigger teams in the competition. When Big Red comes back, I think our best team has Sue on the bench and either Halatau or Lawrence missing out. At least outside of representative season anyway. Halatau hasn’t been bad per se, but is very ‘fill the gaps’.

Being such a good performance this week means that this section of the blog was always going to be light on.

Next Round
We’ve got the bye this weekend I firstly hope for a weekend free of injury as our boys play various representative games. Past that, Round 9 sees us taking on the Roosters, currently $1.33 favourites with the bookies. They definitely deserve to be favourites but I can’t help but feel the bookies are making a mistake here. I think we’re a good chance of an upset.

Thoughts from the Bench

The game ball goes to JT. It’s a bit of a love fest, but he deserves it. JT’s comments about the inconsistencies of the NRL draw took the heat off a team that had just blown a 22-point lead and allowed them to focus on knocking off the Dogs. That move, combined with the Lawrence switch, continued JT’s rise among the coaching ranks. – TigerBrad

JT called them out during the post game presser as well, but Sue and Ava were fantastic. Each racked up a stack of valuable metres (146m and 116m respectively) for their time in the field. Despite his questionable hair style, Sue is having a monster season, putting pay to fears our forward pack was looking a bit thin year. – OneEyedTiger

King Richards sharp shooting will put teams who intentionally give penalties a wake up call.  Such teams are “trained” to give penalties in certain positions, and hence if Tigers can manufacture these situations and take two points each time, Tigers could see 6 – 8 points come from penalties.  Not bad outcome, especially if these are taken near the halfway line. – TravelPig

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Five For Fighting – Round 6

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@BatPete: Footy is a game about balance, discipline and toughness. These are the three elements common to the best coached teams. Their players push through the pain, find more when they think they have nothing left. They coach the big picture game rather than the miracle play. They drill discipline into their players and make them rely on one and other. The Tigers lacked in two of these areas against the Warriors – discipline and balance. We gave away penalties that didn’t need to be given away. We didn’t make key tackles. Our team’s leaders had no view of the big picture in the game, they kept trying useless bombs instead of playing field position and giving our forwards a rest. One thing we can take away from this game is toughness. We didn’t get overawed by the crowd, we didn’t get overawed by the big forwards or the occasion. We played tough footy and we played it for most of the game. This is cause for celebration, because with our young side, discipline and balance will come.

@OneEyedTiger_: I hate to be one of those fans crying #refsfault after a game. Yes, our discipline was poor, first half defensive lapses embarrassing and kicking game just woeful. We’re not forcing dropouts or finding touch. Surely it can’t be that hard to correct, but week after week it remains our key weakness. However, a few vital home-town calls by Badger definitely influenced the result. And it’s not just Badger. We saw some deadset shocking calls in Monday night footy this week too. On a positive note, Simona’s performance was one of the highlights for mine. Great to see him bust tackles and grab a couple of tries. Always been a big fan of him and his attitude. I also thought Sue did a good job coming off the bench. It certainly gave us a more balanced rotation. And Lovett gives nothing away in the run on side (28 tackles, no misses, no errors). Canberra should be in for a shellacking.

@NotBenji6: The weekend’s loss had some incredibly disappointing refereeing which we have spoken about previously. What concerned me more than the reffing was that we almost seemed to have a lack of respect for the game and our opponents. While Woods hit great metres and tackle counts again, he gave away some stupid and uncharacteristic penalties and errors at early stages in our count and late stages in NZ’s. Regardless of our opponent our boys can not afford to give the opposition free reign off the back of consecutive errors and penalties. Despite this, I was very happy with Simona and his fend on Konrad got this Cuzzie a bit randy. That run was what Simona needed, and the Simona that we knew had been hidden. Let’s hope he builds off this going forward.

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Five For Fighting: Round 5

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Pat Richards - Ice Man

@NotBenji6: A bit confused as to how I felt about Monday’s win. The last fifteen minutes was obviously pure class from a few of our backs, but with 15 minutes to go the game was right on the line and we were unable to punish the Eels off the back of three consecutive turnovers as a result of Parra mistakes. If we’re to be a real top 8 side that can seriously challenge come finals time, we need to be better than that.Brooks’ kicking game is now coming under the spotlight as other people cotton on to what FFF have been talking about all year – a lack of variety on the 5th tackle options. He’s got a good long kick on him, so he needs to use it! However, had some players really stand up for most of the game that gave me some faith that we will be ok over Origin. Halatau was running some great lines out of Dummy Half, Lawrence (Excluding his error) had a solid game and Lovett continued to be solid.

@OneEyedTiger_: The casual observers and commentators reckoned it was mostly a dud game outside the final 15 minutes, but there was so much to like from a Wests Tigers perspective over the full 80. 52% possession, 85% completion rate, 40-odd tackle breaks, 8 players exceeding 100 running metres and only 19 missed tackles. Regardless of those careless missed opportunities @NotBenji6 mentioned, those are kind of stats JT can base a solid season around. Brooks’ last tackle options remain a bit pedestrian with innocuous bombs, but on the balance I guess it’s credit to the whole team that we’re at least getting into attacking positions at the end of most sets. Our forwards are powering up field and making good metres after contact. After the last couple of seasons that in itself is a big improvement. Together with our new defensive patterns, there’s plenty to be excited about so far. On Triple M that afternoon, Anthony Maroon reckoned it was embarrassing for Parramatta to be beaten by Wests Tigers, given the pre-season wraps on the Eels. Jimmy Smith piped up and reminded him just how well we performed against last year’s grand finalists in the last couple of weeks, and that the way we closed out Monday’s game shows there’s no shame in being beaten by the 2015 Wests Tigers. Damn straight! Bring on the Warriors, cuz!

@BatPete: I’ve came to an interesting realisation this weekend while watching Dene Halatau give the Parramatta forwards headaches. We have one of the most skilled and versatile teams in the comp at the moment. With players like Rowdy, Siro and Lovett who could all play halves, second row or centre, people like Richards and Farah who are options for last tackle kicks and forwards like Woods that can pass like halves. This was our strength against the Eels and I think it will be what wins us games in the future. Every team has heard the hype about our young halves and dangerous outside backs and they prepare for it. I’d like to see the Tigers play a little more off the cuff, play what is in front of them. Once this happens, we will be the most dangerous team in the NRL.

@LaurenBerry01: I struggled watching most of this game (I blame the whisky!) but after winning and then rewatching it I was struck by just how great our defence was. Preseason JT said that defence wins premierships and he wanted us to be in the top 2 for it, and now? We are 2nd in the league for defence. That is freaking huge!!! So I am ok with a boring game where we keep a team to 6, as it means our D is on, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying about our attack. Patty is only one man and like we saw last week, we can’t afford to rely on him as heavily as we do. Teddy played really well and Brooks wasn’t abysmal but Moses is killing me. I am hoping that our attack will click soon now that our D is more solid. I was also blown away by our match stats. The only area we ‘lost’ was on penalties, but like JT also said in preseason, conceding penalties isn’t something that worries him. Coming from the Roosters who give them away intentionally in a lot of cases if it means stopping a try or momentum, his approach that the sky isn’t falling due to conceding them is refreshing (unless it becomes an actual problem). Lawrence showed some old form and I would marry Richards (but that isn’t news).

[@NotTimSheens was on duty planning for the ANZAC test this week]

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Five For Fighting – Round 4

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@NotTimSheens: The loss sucked, but it’s all part of the process. I’m not going to claim a moral victory – that’s for losers like the Raiders, Titans and Sharks – we blew and 18-point lead and it’s largely inexcusable. For mine, JT’s post-match presser was the most telling moment of the night. He could have laid into Brooks and Moses for not steadying the ship and controlling the game or made any number of Sheens-esque excuses about youth, injuries and a short turnaround. Instead he praised the effort, talked up his team and instilled even more confidence into an outfit that took the 2014 grand finalists to the brink in consecutive weeks.

@BatPete: It’s early days, but someone has to be critical of the play of the halves and outside backs over these past few weeks. Brooks and Moses aren’t making the right choices at the line. Fifth tackle options are still non-existent and we’re wasting opportunities to put teams to the sword. I understand about youth and inexperience, but Brooks has been playing NRL for over a year now and Moses for over six months. Maybe the JT influence on the halves isn’t all it’s cracked up to be? On a lighter note, Delouise Hoeter showed why everyone has had wraps on him with a solid game, and our forwards were a revelation.

@LaurenBerry01: When did you become so negative, @BatPete? We are rebuilding and it’s exciting! Fixing our forwards and allowing our halves some free rein isn’t a doomsday prophecy, it’s just a different style of coaching. It allows Brooks and Moses to find their way without coaching any flair and creativity out of them. I’m with @NotTimSheens, the way JT viewed our loss made me smile. He refused to pass the buck but also didn’t regurgitate the same old shit. You can see he believes in the team and he knows we are on track. It’s a slow, solid rebuild that will hold for longer than one or two seasons.

@OneEyedTiger_: I’m as disappointed as the next person about the loss. When you lose in golden point there are many moments you can reflect on where the game could have been won: from Teddy’s denied try, Lawrence and Sironen being held up centimetres from scoring and Brooks’ close drop goal attempt. We’ve seen in past seasons how valuable two points can be in making or missing the finals (yes, it’s Round 4 and I’m talking finals!) And while I’m at it, why hasn’t the NRL changed the rules so that a team gets one point for losing in extra time? We all know it makes sense, right?

@NotBenji6: Eating a bit of humble pie this week. Off the back of the short turnaround against the toughest team to beat in the competition, with a depleted team I fully expected us to get decently touched up. The Wests Tigers of 2012/2013 would’ve had 30-40 points put on them in the same scenario. Our ‘fringe’ players just continue stand up time and time again, and the loss was heartbreaking as all have stated. With such a young team, momentum was always going to play a big factor in the outcome of this game. There’s still a lot of question marks, and I’m not entirely convinced, but I was proud of the boys.

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Five For Fighting: Round 3

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@LaurenBerry01: I was so impressed by the game, especially our first 40-60 minutes. There was no hanging my head and no anger, I left the stadium proud of our effort and growth. Had this game been played in Round 8 or so the result would have been very different. Kev has the safest pair of hands under a high ball we’ve seen in a long time. I trust Teddy too of course, but he was targeted and shut down a lot so I know he has better in him. Marty played well but I agree with JT, he needs to mature into a player who can harness his aggression.

@OneEyedTiger_: We competed, and despite a terrible completion rate had every chance to steal a victory in the final 20. Why we didn’t target Walker in the second half is beyond me. Woods, Galloway and Marty have worked up a great combination – we made good yards when they were all on the park. But like last week we lacked the same impact at other times. Buck, Hala and Ava are solid workers, not impact players. I thought Lodge could be the guy to step up, but a training injury put pay to that. We are still missing one big-bopper. Sad to think that Simon Dwyer could be reaching his peak about now.

@NotTimSheens: Effort was great, execution was grose. JT is rebuilding structures on both sides of the ball and it was always going to be a process. We’re ahead of where I expected to be after Round 3 and the likes of Sue, Taupau and Big Kev killed it once again. Like @LaurenBerry01 alluded to, you could tell Inglis took this one personally – he wanted to show Tedesco who was boss and who was the best fullback in the NRL. It reminded me of Michael Jordan going at a young Kobe Bryant back in the day, with MJ taking his game up a level to put the young bloke in his place.

@BatPete: Our last tackle options were absolute garbage and have been all year. We are rolling down the field no matter which forwards are on, but doing nothing with the ball on the last tackle. I’d like to see more repeat sets and have Brooks looking up and kicking to his field. Moses really needs to shine against the Bulldogs to warrant his first grade jumper. It might actually do him well to drop him to NSW Cup so he can get a bit of confidence back and work from there. Lodge is the piece of the puzzle that is really missing from our forward pack. We definitely lose something when he’s not on our bench.

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Five For Fighting: Round 2

 

We’re rolling the dice on something different for 2015 – a blog where BWTF types share their thoughts on the round that was. Here’s what our armchair experts thought of Monday night’s win over the Dragons.

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@BatPete: I really believe we’ve begun the year doing the little things right. It’s an old saying that the little things win the games for you, but it is quite true. The reason I was so impressed with Sue wasn’t because he was the top tackler or even the top runner, it was how he did the little things. When he tackled, he wrapped up the ball, he turned the players onto their back and he generally slowed any roll on that they may have gotten. On a fanatical note, Teddy had a blinder, Lawrence was rock solid in defence, Siro showed why people had faith in him and Moses was garbage.

@NotTimSheens: Moses is just ticking along. Apart from two woeful fifth tackle options he’s not hurting the team. I’d rather let him defer and find his feet. If we were 0-2 I’d probably be ok with a change, maybe throw in Drinkwater, but at the moment he’s letting Brooks run the show. I’d much rather that than have Moses force his hand and overplay like our previous six did for so many years. Brooks is looking for Teddy in attack over Moses. Eventually teams will start to over commit to those two and Moses will have time and space to do his thing. I’m not worried.

@NotBenji6: We can all talk about #RunTMB, but the key to our success in the first two rounds has come from who you would call our ‘fringe’ players who are stepping up. Sironen, Sue, Lodge, Halatau, Big Kev and even Lovett in Round 1. Our success this year rides on these guys more than a lot of people realise, and so far they are delivering. Whether they will continue to in 10-12 rounds time will determine whether we’re in the hunt for finals footy or not. We will only be ‘surprise packets’ that people ignore for one or two more wins at most. The bar has been set, now the boys need to continue to deliver.

@OneEyedTiger_: JT made special mention in the presser that he didn’t want the second half tobe a scoring spree. He didn’t want us playing loose and getting carried away. He wanted a focus on defence and controlled play. Gotta admire that! While we didn’t play controlled footy, we did keep them to zero in the second half. Mind you, I think an under-15s could have kept them to zero. They were laughable with the ball. It was also great to see Siro realise his size and effectiveness as a ball-runner, as opposed to a ball-player.

@LaurenBerry01: I will be the one to say I loved the glimpses of old Lawrence. Without him Moses was pathetic in D! Lawrence carried him and still managed to make a few good runs. Not back yet and I don’t see him challenging Nofa when he is back, but it was still great to see him getting a game fully fit. Our second half, while average, showed a lot of promise. Like OneEyed said, there was a plan and we saw that as much as we wanted a blowout. We have never been an overly greedy team when it comes to for and against! And we wonder why we all have underlying heart conditions!

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Nine hot takes from Auckland

It was a preseason tournament that some teams took more seriously than others. Still, it’s fun to speculate, exaggerate and hyperventilate. Here’s nine hot takes from the Auckland Nines, presented by long-time BWTF supporter @NotTimSheens:

1. He’s yet to make his first grade debut but Manaia Cherrington showed why many rate him as the heir apparent to Robbie Farah. Cherrington has all the skills you want in a hooker. The kid is clearly an upgrade over Joel Luani, and I wouldn’t complain if JT flicked the switch mid-season and played Cherrington off the bench, resting Farah for 20-25 minutes a match.

2. Nathan Brown and Matthew Lodge will be the Tigers Bash Brothers in 2015 IF they remain grounded on and off the field. That’s a capital ‘I’ and a capital ‘F’ because I’m very nervous about one or both of them spontaneously combusting at any given moment. Brown showcased his versatility at the Nines and along with Lodge he loves the rough stuff.

3. He probably won’t get fans hot and bothered like future Immortal Blake Austin did in 2014, but Josh Drinkwater showed signs of being a very capable backup half and has plenty of utility value. Picked as the Tigers primary playmaker, Drinkwater’s passing and kicking games improved as the tournament progressed. He will only benefit from more game time in the upcoming trials.

4. It was great to see Jack Buchanan put together a solid showing after being overlooked by Mick Potter for much of last year. The kid has a great motor and looks to have added some considerable size since playing 23 games in the top grade in 2013. The Tigers will need willing workers this year and Buchanan fits the bill.

5. Like Buchanan, I’m expecting a big season from Brenden Santi. The Tigers will have to make more than 100 tackles a game to replace the combined workrate of Liam Fulton, Bodene Thompson and Adam Blair, and Santi will be asked to shoulder some of the load. He was all over the field, often the first player chasing when the opposition made a break.

6. Salesi Funaki will make everyone forget about James Gavet and Ben Murdoch-Masila, who looks to have enjoyed an offseason at the Aspen Street, Penrith, KFC. Funaki does everything at a million miles an hour and was one of the most damaging runners and hitters at the Nines. Let’s cut out the middle man and nickname him ‘Beast Mode’ right now.

7. I’m not buying all the talk of a fitter and faster Chris Lawrence. I expected big things from the Nines captain, and he delivered little more than one try from a neat Cherrington pass. Nothing has changed from 2014 – or 2013 or 2012 Lawrence looks like an old man as he labours in attack and defence. Chalk this up as another Wests Tigers career cut short by injury.

8. After a solid showing at the Four Nations Tim Simona was a step or two off the pace. I thought he’d set the competition alight, but like Lawrence he looked flat and at times disinterested. History tells us the Simona kid will be fine for the competition proper, but it was a disappointing weekend for one of the best attacking weapons in the NRL.

9. Kevin Naiqama’s performance was head and shoulders – and hair – above those of Lawrence and Simona. The new recruit was a handful every time he touched the ball and he made some very astute reads in defence. Naiqama’s mix of strength, speed and athleticism is similar to that of David Nofoaluma. He should be the first back picked for the Alice Springs trial.

Thanks for reading, kids, I’ll see you in the back row.

@NotTimSheens