How cultural change brought Wests Tigers back from the brink

September 3 2016 - 4:53PM

How cultural change brought Wests Tigers back from the brink

Adrian Proszenko

At this point last season, Wests Tigers were also deeply invested in an NRL match in which they played no part.

Had Newcastle beaten Penrith in that round-26 encounter, the Tigers would have been wooden-spooners. This is what happens when your destiny is determined by others.

A year on and Tigers fans lent their support to the Cowboys on Saturday night – albeit for 80 minutes – as North Queensland beat Gold Coast to give the joint venture outfit everything to play for at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday.

Much has happened since that fateful Panthers-Knights clash. Coach Jason Taylor has made good on his promise to drop Robbie Farah in one of those career-defining decisions that has been justified. The Tigers fullback is now the NSW fullback after James Tedesco found form and fitness at the same time. And the joint-venture outfit was in contention for something other than the spoon coming into the final round of the season.

Yet perhaps the greatest turnaround has occurred off the field. The sometimes antagonistic relationship between Wests and Balmain has matured to the point where the latter is still invited to participate, despite its inability to contribute financially. The membership tally is expected to tick over the 15,000 mark for the first time come kick-off on Sunday, a record rise for a club that had never broken five figures.

Game-day attendances, if the faithful pack Leichhardt, will represent the biggest increase of any Sydney club in 2016. Those numbers have helped contribute to this one: the Tigers are poised to be $700,000 net better off this year than last.

“Everything we are doing here at Wests Tigers is about operating ethically and honestly with the sole aim of winning back the trust of our fans and making them feel proud to be a part of the Wests Tigers family,” chief executive Justin Pascoe said.

"For me, personally, especially coming from an AFL background, I couldn’t be happier with what we’ve been able to achieve this year.

“But we’re a long way from where I want it to be.”

Like every other club, the Tigers have a strategic plan. “United team, shared dream” is the mantra for the three-year road map that will take the club into 2017. However, these are more than just statements scribbled on a page.

“When I came to the business a year ago, I personally believed the business wasn’t mature enough or developed enough to look too far into the future,” Pascoe said.

Which is why the strategic plan was broken up into 67 items. The progress of each is monitored via a traffic light system: red shows that work on that item is yet to commence, amber that it is in progress and green signifies it has been completed. By the end of October, there will be a green light next to 51 of the key objectives.

“We’ve got a process of following through on the next stage of the business,” Pascoe said.

"We think this brand is enormous and the opportunity to be a power in the NRL is real. It will take continuous hard work and there’s a team behind the scenes willing to do that.

“The board has been very supportive and progressive.”

Those who committed to the journey at the club’s lowest ebb have enjoyed it the most. The Tigers were in need of a major sponsor after Harry Triguboff finally lost patience. Brydens Lawyers are sponsors or membership partners of five NSW-based NRL clubs but for its principal, Lee Hagipantelis, filling the void left by long-time backer Meriton was as much an emotional as financial investment.

“I’ve been a Tigers supporter all my life,” said Hagipantelis, who briefly flirted with the idea of buying a stake in the club.

"I’ve never made any sponsorship agreement or investment that I didn’t gain some personal level of return from. It’s not all about dollars and cents. For me to align my brand with the team that I follow is priceless.

“I’m extraordinarily happy with the performance of the team and the direction the club is going in.”

Some of the credit must go to Taylor. The former Magpies halfback inherited a salary cap mess that would make Parramatta’s “Gang of Five” wince. Regardless of where Farah plays next year, the Tigers will be paying a fair chunk of the NSW hooker’s salary. While the issue should have been managed better, you can’t argue with the results.

“He’s evolved as an individual and a coach,” Pascoe said of Taylor.

“That’s showing on the field. It’s a testament to him, it’s a testament to the playing group and all the coaching staff.”

Whether the Tigers achieve the most important goal set out in their strategic plan, making the top four by 2017, remains to be seen. That light is currently on amber. But there is an optimism now that wasn’t evident when officials were sweating on the Panthers beating the Knights a year ago.

“I can’t tell you the number of people who contact me on social media who think it is unbelievable how our team has transformed in a relatively short space of time,” said Tigers chair Marina Go.

"What they’ve seen is the enthusiasm, passion and heart that comes from a culture that has been transformed.

“The job isn’t done, but as a board, we are extremely pleased with where we find ourselves on the path of our strategic plan. It’s exciting for us.”


good article! thanks

That was a very heartening article and a satisfying read. So good to see that a thorough, systematic and professional approach is being adopted. Credit to Pascoe, Go, Taylor and the whole team of coaching and administrative staff. I think, that’s the key - we finally have a team approach, where everyone seems to be on the same page. Nice work and I hope more of the goals are ticked off in the near future.

Nice, it is a far cry from last year

Some very good numbers there.

After losing my enthusiasm with much of the off field dramas… But also NRL rubbish not WTs related… which saw me only make 3 games this year including a trial, much less than usual, my interest has been restored (along with many many others going by the sold out sign above LO’s entrance)
Keep it going WTs

Interesting that we have more members now despite the apparent hordes ‘leaving with Robbie’.

Very pleasing article,the best of it is,the whole club now is getting the stability it so needed over the years and that they have a solid strategic plan for the club to move forward in a positive direction…I have been bitterly disappointed over many years with the waste of money at the club and it is credit to all concerned to finally get or cap back in order so as we may be competitive in the recruitment arena…I have openly critised the club on many occasions particularly the inept previous boards and CEOs,however, it pleases me no end to see a new CEO on board that clearly puts the club first and foremost…
Well done to everybody concerned,we are finally on the path of being a proffessionally run club and competitive team on the field…today at LO we farewell a club legend who has had many critics and many supporters,I salute RF for a great career at the Wests Tigers and wish him all the best in his future endeavours,like many in this great NRL arena players have to move on for different reasons,all the best RF… I have never been more excited to watch a game of football than Iam today, the chance to make the final 8 after such a tumultuous year is fantastic,win or lose we will be in a much better place come 2017 season…finally,I recognise that we have always been one club Wests Tigers because of the uniting of two great foundation clubs Western Suburbs Magpies and the BalmainTigers,we can read about the two in the history books,that is what they are,I have welcomed many of my Magpies brothers and sisters in many threads over the years and now it is quite apparent that we have to be strong in our support of the Wests Tigers and as the one we are getting bigger and stronger,I hope every body has a great day today whether at LO or at home…Happy Fathers day to all concerned,God bless and enjoy not only your day with the family but the WTs family as well…

Yep - very positive news. I like the way this club has made some very tough decisions and stuck with them. I said a couple of years ago when the new board was appointed by the NRL, that although Go and co. didn’t have a rugby league background, they were successful business people and as such, possessed the knowledge and skill-set necessary to get the WestsTigers - as a business - running as it should.
With some judicious arse-kicking (read Mayer), and appointments (Pascoe), the club looks to be heading towards a point where we can all take pride in its performance. The success off the field has translated to a better than expected performance from the team this year. IF we can jag a win against the Raiders and make the finals then I believe most supporters of the club will feel that the team has achieved at least as much as we had hoped and more than we expected. With the Farah saga coming to an end, we can look forward to a brighter future. I for one am very optimistic. I am still ambivalent about Taylor (Jason), but you can only judge him by his results. So for me, it’s definitely a pass mark for 2016!

Soon after Marina Go was appointed to chair the Board, she went into print with the three part letter to inform the Wests Tigers supporters of her plan for the future. While many on this forum accused her of simply writing a ‘puff piece’, it was the start of the change. For once, it appeared the Tigers had a plan.
Looking back from today, it appears the final cog in the business was the appointment of Justin Pascoe, because the changes started to actually happen.
Congratulations to all those involved, as the future looks much brighter.

Good article and perfectly timed.

Very Nice! Sure beats the crap we have had to read about our club over the last year. We should celebrate when things go right and regardless of the outcome today it’s been an improvement on last year. I’m not happy about the RF handling but I’m glad it’s done. I’m not sure our success can be attributed to JT but well done. And our board isn’t exactly top quality but I do agree there does appear to be harmony and that’s great. Today and what may happen aside, I am excited about next year, no distractions, no off field dramas (fingers crossed) and possibly the right players in the right positions. That will be the true test for club and coach. I as always will remain a fan, a member and cheer our team!

It’s a good article and we do appear to be heading in the right direction. I think stating that JT is the reason for our success is a little rich though.


It’s a good article and we do appear to be heading in the right direction. I think stating that JT is the reason for our success is a little rich though.

As far as I know JT has been head coach all year,the team is playing for a place in the top 8 today…JT is the reason we are there and has done a great job with the team he has…well done JT…

It’s called PR. Today more than ever they have to support the coach in a day where he could be hailed a hero, or a villian. He has been in the firing line of what has been ultimately an unpopular decision that was backed by the board.
Personally I have major problems with the coach , but the club need to support him today and they have.


It’s a good article and we do appear to be heading in the right direction. I think stating that JT is the reason for our success is a little rich though.

Well for the on field success of cause it is not Taylors doing it is concord ovals gardener shared coaching with the cleaner …last I know Talyor is the head coach of cause any success on field is not his doing …I really do not know how anyone one wins in this club!
Yes from sharing the spoon last season to one game from a finals berth this season Taylor certainly has not turned things around.

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