I was wondering when a pundit noticed Wests……
Wests Tigers coach Mick Potter firmly at the wheel
The Daily Telegraph
AS a player Mick Potter was decisive, brave and possessed a good knowledge of the game, just the kind of qualities required to be a successful coach.
Like so many of today’s young clipboard holders (they don’t really have them anymore but it’s quite descriptive) an apprenticeship in the English SuperLeague was a sound initiation but it doesn’t take long to find that the NRL is entirely a different proposition.
Just three victories from his opening 10 games, including seven straight losses, suggested a short tenure for the new boss.
However, even in very grim times I felt there were positives coming out of the doom and gloom.
Most importantly Potter never wavered in his belief that they were on the right track and that the club weren’t far away from better results. He took every opportunity to publicly display his support of the players.
Not once did he blame a terrible injury run for their predicament, instead saying that despite a wealth of inexperience throughout the squad, that they were capable of better and up to the task.
He did however make an unexpected change and that was to start Benji Marshall as an interchange in their round 10 clash against South Sydney.
Whether this was a disciplinary action is still somewhat clouded.
It obviously caused much debate from those outside the club and added fuel to the rumour that the two were struggling to establish a working relationship.
The coach copped plenty of criticism at the time but in retrospect the 17 minutes that his star playmaker spent on the bench could be the most significant period of Potter’s time so far at the club.
Firstly, such a move left nobody in any doubt as to who was the leader of the pack. It showed reputations counted for little and that decisions would be made based on the team, not individuals.
While the Rabbits still went on to win easily that day, a line had been drawn in the sand.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that since then Benji’s form has certainly picked up, and while he is still a major influence on how they perform and a match-winner in his own right, the contribution is more within a team structure.
For a long time the Tigers biggest strength was also their biggest weakness and that was their propensity to go sideways before they had earned the right by going forward.
Over the past six weeks this has improved to the extent that when moving the ball laterally they are still managing to be going towards the opposition try-line and not just the sideline.
It allows them to still take advantage of the prodigious skill level in the team but in a much more effective manner.
Last weekend we also saw an improved ability to close out a game, another area in which they have consistently struggled.
The final 15 minutes against Melbourne was a template in professionalism in not inviting Storm to mount a late comeback.
By kicking the ball deep into the corners, at times finding touch, Benji and Robbie Farah ground their more fancied rivals into the mud, when a winning lead had been established.
In the past, looking to score more points would often outweigh just playing smart and getting the job done.
In fact, the lone time focus was lost during this period was also a great sign of ownership.
In the 76th minute Benji threw a cut-out pass to the feet of Blake Ayshford 45m out from their own line when the game was under control.
There was space for the centre on the outside of the Melbourne defence and on a dry day, in different circumstances, the pass would have been “on”.
At this particular moment it was the wrong play at the wrong time. What impressed was the reaction of Benji who immediately castigated himself in a very clear manner. It showed he understood he had let the team and the game plan down.
A week after the Souths match, Potter made another change of consequence when he moved Adam Blair from the back-row to front-row.
At that time the high-priced import was being blamed for everything from the national debt to global warming.
While still not setting the world on fire, his contribution has improved markedly and he looks much more at home in the middle than working on the edges.
Sitting fourteenth on the ladder shows the Tigers still have a long way to go but four wins from their past five games is definitely a step in the right direction.
Tomorrow they face Cronulla for the second time this season and I’m confident the Sharks will find it a tougher assignment than their 30-6 win in round nine.
Great analysis by Sterlo - He’s bang on about Potter. What Potter has done under extremely difficult circumstances this season is nothing short of remarkable, imo. If we stopped focusing on where we are on the ladder for a moment and looked more closely at the results of Potter’s decision making, as Sterling has done, we would see just how valuable his contribution/influence has been so far - and things are going to get way better.
Within the next 2 years, I predict that Potter will have us firing on all 4 cylinders and he will be regarded as one of the best coaches in the game. I hope all the knob heads on the board, who supposedly want to get rid of him after only one season, go and self-combust or something and he ends up staying with us for a very long time.