I don’t pretend to know what is happening at the club and I am sure I have less idea than most on these forums.
But from a supporter of the club since childhood, who grew up close enough to hear the crowd from Leichhardt Oval and has been following since the 1970s, I do know that major structural change has been required.
Robbie Farah has been my favourite Tiger for 10 years. Only with the benefit of hindsight will we be able to judge whether the recent decisions will be viewed by history as hard decisions that set the club right, or yet another saga in a long story of mismanagement.
Robbie, Benji and Co get a lot of credit for the 2005 season, and rightly so. But after having won the GF we lost Scott Prince, in the season he was picked for Australia and won the Clive Churchill Medal.
We then developed a “culture” of not being accountable in defence, because we could rely on our attack to outscore any opponent. And over 20 minutes, we could be the hottest side on the planet… but footy is an 80 minute game. We also developed a culture of blaming the coach for poor on field performances and not making players accountable for their own failures.
From the outside, I find it hard to reconcile the thought that our toughest, most decorated and hardest working player over the last 10 years, in Robbie Farah, can’t be part of an improved culture. But whatever we have been doing it hasn’t been right because, despite a talented roster at times, the club’s culture hasn’t supported a winning environment. And it’s time to move on and, for better or for worse, I think Robbie’s departure signals that the Club is finally recognising that a win in 2005 followed by a slide to the bottom isn’t good enough.
I had hoped Potter could change the culture, but he was knifed by his player base apparently. Whatever your views on Jason Taylor, we cannot have a club culture where the coach continually takes the blame for poor on-field performance. The players, especially the leadership group, must be accountable too.
The two great “cultures” in Australian sporting teams are generally recognised to be the Sydney Swans and the Brisbane Broncos. Those cultures (although I know Sydney has changed a bit recently) have been based around accountability for every player at every level of the club, with a strong group of hard working players who become an elite team together.
The Tigers need a culture where the players are accountable to each other for performance on the field and in training. Where it is hard to crack into the NRL team. Where players don’t win selection softly based on “future potential” and are forced to eradicate weaknesses in their game playing through the reserves. Where the team as a whole is always focused on raising the bar against their own past performances.
I don’t expect the Tigers to win every game, but I want to know that every player who pulls on that jersey has worked his date off for it and is going to be accountable to his teammates for the effort he puts in.
And that’s the secret to it all really… successful teams are built from players who set really high standards in everything they do, whether it be playing, training, media or Saturday night. Because being a star yourself isn’t good enough.
Why would anyone want to sign Robbie Farah for $1M a year? To get a superstar player who has led a club with a culture that’s become used to winning around 10 games a year? Clubs would rather sign players who’ve been developed by clubs with really high standards, where players are inculcated to critically analyse performances and be accountable for their own failures.
I’m not saying it’s Robbie’s fault. The man is a WT legend and rightly so. But I am pleased that the management seem to recognise a need for fundamental change in WT culture, even leaving aside the salary cap problems.
So let’s see where this goes. A fond farewell to our champions of 2005 and time for the next stage in this club’s history.