Wests Tigers salary cap mess: how club’s recruitment has played out since Tim Sheens left
Ben Glover FOX SPORTS November 19, 2015 4:54PM SHARE
“IT’S probably three years before we unravel the mess we have inherited.”
That was Wests Tigers chairwoman Marina Go in the middle of this year after the club’s three independent directors had been appointed to the board by the NRL.
At the time it seemed bleak but the reality of the Tigers’ salary cap mess is starting to bear fruit, scaring the life out of Tigers fans along the way.
This week the news has centred on two players who as little as 18 months ago were heralded as the halves to take the Tigers to their first premiership since 2005.
After a tough first season in first grade together, the excitement around Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses has tempered and perhaps sensing the mood, they appear to have cooled on the idea of committing their long-term future to the club.
On Wednesday Balmain legend and Moses’ uncle Benny Elias told foxsports.com.au he feared one of the few bright lights of the 2015 season, fullback James Tedesco, would follow Brooks and Moses out the door if they left the club when their contracts run out at the end of the 2016 season.
“They are at Mitch’s place every day, they are as thick as thieves the three of them,” Elias said.
“Tedesco will go where these two blokes go, I’ll tell you.”
It’s alarmist statements like these that are making it really difficult for coach Jason Taylor to stay in control of an already precarious situation at a club that’s on a knife’s edge.
His softening stance on Robbie Farah — he now says the former skipper will be at the club in 2016 and will be in a fair fight for the starting hooker’s role — was perhaps a sign the coach is looking for some respite from the public scrutiny and fanbase disillusionment.
Taylor has somewhat been hamstrung by the Tigers’ cap issues and since Go made her prediction of three years of pain the club has lost top liners Keith Galloway, Pat Richards and Marty Taupau as well as one of the competition’s brightest young talents, Te Maire Martin.
To counter that they’ve brought in Matt Ballin, Joel Edwards, Rugby Sevens specialist Jesse Parahi and not much else.
Without being disrespectful to the new arrivals, no sane person could argue the Tigers have gone close to breaking even.
There’s little doubt Taylor would struggle to survive if Brooks, Moses or Tedesco, let alone all three, left the club before it started to claw back some ground on the NRL’s more successful clubs.
The juggling act for Taylor is going to be convincing his best and brightest that things will get better as well as selling the club to potential recruits when the worst of the cap crisis is over and the Tigers are back in a position to compete for stars on the open market.
That’s the future. To understand how the Tigers got here you have to take a look at the past.
Tim Sheens was sacked by the club at the end of the 2012 season.
After overseeing a fairly steady and stable squad following their 2005 premiership season, one of Sheens’ final acts was to orchestrate the exits of club favourites Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan.
In some ways that was the beginning of the end. There’s been a steady stream of top quality exits for one reason or another since.
Benji Marshall (rugby), Liam Fulton (retired), Gareth Ellis (Super League), Blake Ayshford (Sharks), Lote Tuqiri (Rabbitohs), Adam Blair (Broncos), Marika Koroibete (Storm), Braith Anasta (retired), Richards (Super League), Galloway (Super League), and the injury prone Tim Moltzen (Manly) have all left since the glory days under Sheens.
The best of the talent brought in from outside the club during that time?
The departing Taupau (Manly), the departed Bodene Thompson (Warriors), the departed Blake Austin (Raiders) and the retired Braith Anasta, who arrived at Concord on his last legs.
It’s for that reason as much as any that Tigers fans must be finding it difficult to cop a salary cap crisis.
Where has all the money gone?
Backended deals for Farah — who could earn $950,000 in reserve grade in 2016 — and Marshall didn’t help and it’s also become clear management overvalued a bunch of players who wouldn’t be considered stars outside their club walls.
They’re suffering for it now because those players didn’t or aren’t living up to the perhaps unrealistic expectations that were placed on them by their price tag.
What the fans will be hoping is that those same mistakes aren’t being repeated by the heavy investment in the Tigers’ new crop of young guns, the likes of Brooks, Moses and Tedesco.
If they flop or move to other clubs as they’re starting to match the hype, Go’s prediction of three years of pain could blow out even further.
THE DEPARTED (POST-SHEENS)
Chris Heighington Benji Marshall Liam Fulton Pat Richards Keith Galloway Beau Ryan Tim Moltzen Gareth Ellis Blake Ayshford Lote Tuqiri Ben Murdoch-Masila Matt Utai Jacob Miller Matt Groat Adam Blair Joel Reddy Marika Koroibete Braith Anasta Eddy Petybourne Bodene Thompson Marty Taupau James Gavet Te Maire Martin
THE OUTSIDE ARRIVALS (POST-SHEENS)
Dene Halatau Braith Anasta Jack Buchanan Eddy Pettybourne Ava Seumanufagai Bodene Thompson Keith Lulia Marty Taupau Cory Paterson James Gavet Blake Austin Matt Lodge Kevin Naiqama Josh Drinkwater Joel Edwards Matt Ballin Michael Chee-Kam Jack Littlejohn Jesse Parahi Josh Addo-Carr Josh Aloiai Justin Hunt Jordan Rankin