Robbie Farah ditches captain cranky tag to help resurrect WestsTigers
May 7, 2015 - 10:00PM
When Aaron Woods was coming through the grades at the Wests Tigers he was told by senior players to avoid Robbie Farah if the skipper was not in a good mood.
For so long Farah seemed to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. The burden eventually became too much for the Tigers hooker last year when he lost his enjoyment in rugby league. Farah hit rock bottom and needed counselling after Gordon Tallis spoke out following a private conversation he had with the Tigers’ rake who was said to be critical of former coach Mick Potter. He considered walking away from the captaincy.
Enter Jason Taylor. Taylor has helped take some of the pressure off Farah and captain cranky is slowly becoming a trait of the past.
According to Woods, the only time you see a frown on Farah’s face is if his beloved Liverpool lose. But this was not always the case.
“I was intimidated a little bit,” Woods said of joining the Tigers NRL squad as a 17-year-old. "A couple of the guys warned me that if he is grumpy not to worry and it was just Robbie. But no one says that any more.
“He has completely changed from when I came to the club as a young kid. It’s probably the most relaxed I’ve seen Robbie. Some days when I was younger he was grumpy and I didn’t know how to take him. But it is now easy for young guys to approach and they don’t feel like it’s hard talking to him.”
Following a turbulent 2014, Farah knew something had to give. Frank discussions with incoming coach Taylor helped pave the way for Farah to be relieved of some of the responsibilities.
Farah knew with an impressionable squad his actions would shape the Tigers fortunes.
“In the past, we lose a game I used to have the shits and not talk to anyone,” said Farah, who will lead the Tigers against the Sydney Roosters on Friday night. "I knew I couldn’t be like that. You’ve got young players coming through and they see that, that’s not the sort of leadership you want.
“A lot of that responsibility has been taken off my shoulders which I’m very happy about. Everyone talks about my influence and I think it’s a load of nonsense. It’s just a perception out there. I don’t know where it came from and why people think it. I guess it’s because I get asked about it in the media and I’m captain and you’re doing media every week and you get asked these questions that you have to answer. I don’t like answering them but I became a spokesperson or a voice at the club that people turned to for answers. It wasn’t something I liked, and it got out of hand.”
While Farah has moved on from last season, time has not completely healed his wounds.
“I still think I’m a bit apprehensive about certain things,” Farah said. “It’s hard to forget everything that happened last year. I’ve got my guard up now because I’m still a bit scared about what happened. That’s in terms of off the field. On the field I’m loving my footy and coming to training every day. There’s a really good vibe around the place.”
Taylor had an open mind about his relationship with Farah. Naturally, Taylor says, the partnership between captain and coach needs to be tight in order to push for success. In one of those first conversations, Taylor explained how he wanted to revamp Farah’s role at the club. He wanted to alter the way Farah played and potentially reduce his game time. Farah said he was open to the changes because “what we’ve been doing in the last few years hasn’t been working” and Taylor has nothing but praise for the way the NSW No.9 has responded.
“I don’t like to judge anybody before you know it yourself,” Taylor said. "From the first day we’ve started talking about things Robbie has been great. His commitment and passion for the club, his career and his footy is first class. That came through.
“It wasn’t something that I knew was there before we came along but it has been clear that he is slowly becoming a bit more relaxed over the course of time. I would like that to continue. No one can perform at their best if they are continually weighed down by feeling like that everything rests with his shoulders”
In Farah’s words he took some time to adjust to his new on-field role. He has been lumped with getting the Tigers in better positions, and in some cases forgoing his natural attacking instinct to stick to the plan. In football speak they call it “a play for a play”. Farah said it was something he continues to develop.
“[Taylor] wants me to control that structure and direct the boys around the park to certain positions,” Farah said. “Now we are doing a play but the purpose is doing that for the next play or play after that. It has been difficult for me at times because I see something and I want to back myself because that’s the way I’ve played in the past. Now it’s about having that control and patience and slowly building our game.”
The emergence of halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks plus James Tedesco’s form at fullback has helped ease the burden on Farah. Farah believes the club are finally settled in the halves for the first time since Benji Marshall and Scott Prince combined for the Tigers’ 2005 premiership.
Taylor said Farah was aware of the attacking ability of his teammates.
“Robbie is really mindful of the ability of the guys around him and he is mindful he gets the ball before anyone else,” Taylor said. "People often ask what have you changed. When new coaches come in you don’t change, you start from scratch. That’s what we’ve done.
“From day one, from the first conversation, I could tell he was committed, then it was up to me to convince him that the direction with the team was the right direction and for everybody. It’s a real credit to Robbie with how he is rolling forward with the adjustments that we’re making.”