Wests Tigers’ three-year plan says it’s top four or bust in NRL season 2017
Christian Nicolussi, The Daily Telegraph
December 8, 2016 5:41pm
ONE sunny February morning last year, the Wests Tigers launched their season with a breakfast for members at WatervieW, a flashy restaurant just around the corner from ANZ Stadium.
Coach Jason Taylor was about to enter his first season in charge.
Marty Taupau, who had featured in New Zealand’s Four Nations triumph over the Kangaroos a few months earlier, stood on stage and said his highlight from that final was “putting Greg Bird on his arse’’.
Members also received a glossy 16-page strategic plan for the next three years.
Emblazoned across the top of page eight, marked Performance Measures, was “to make the NRL top four’’.
Then CEO Grant Mayer and the former board’s ambitious prediction could now come back to haunt the Tigers should they miss the finals for a sixth straight season, and the third under Taylor.
The Daily Telegraph reminded Taylor about that bold declaration on Thursday as he watched his players complete their four-day training camp near Wollongong.
“We had a new board just take over at the time, a new coaching staff, and a lot of changes happen since. Making bold predictions about where you want to be in a few years time is what every club should be doing,’’ Taylor said.
“Last season was an improvement on 2015, and we want to improve again.
“That means we will have to be playing finals football because we came close last year, and that’s great.
“We know if we’re able to produce what we did in the back half of the season, we’re good enough to do that, so that’s what we’re working towards.’’
THE BIG FOUR
The biggest issue for the Tigers is if they can retain skipper Aaron Woods, halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks, and fullback James Tedesco, who are off contract at the end of 2017.
Until it is confirmed where the quartet will be playing, there will be plenty of distractions.
Taylor knows that, and now has the challenge of preventing the negotiations from derailing their campaign.
“It seems people are more interested in (contract) stuff than they are the day-to-day runnings of their club,’’ Taylor said.
“I’m not playing down the importance of trying to keep talented players here — it is enormously important — but it’s not something we want to be reading about day after day.
“We want to stay focused on today, not get bogged down on what could happen in the future. We’ll let everyone know when there are developments.’’
JT UNDER PRESSURE
HAVING enjoyed the support of the Tigers board during the ugly showdown with Robbie Farah, Taylor has had time to put his stamp on the joint venture club entering his third year.
He has the assistants he wants in Craig Sandercock, Paul Stringer and Andrew Webster, who has returned from the Warriors, a good rapport with CEO Justin Pascoe and healthy respect for new football manager Kelly Egan.
The fans have also come around with the club’s membership to pass 10,000 before Christmas for the first time.
Taylor guided the Tigers to ninth when many judges had them locked in a race for the wooden spoon last season. But does he feel his future is under threat if the Tigers fail to reach September?
“We’ll improve every day, that’s what we’re doing, we want to be better than we were last year, and I’m confident we will be,’’ Taylor said.
Told he had not exactly answered the question, Taylor said: “That’s my answer.’’
MOSES PROFITS FROM RESPONSIBILITY
Mitchell Moses emerged as a star in the run home to the NRL finals, and was rewarded for his form by being selected in the Prime Minister’s XIII team which excelled in Papua New Guinea.
Moses was seen barking orders during a field session in Corrimal yesterday, and clearly enjoys the leadership and responsibility of directing the players around the field.
Canterbury have already been linked to him.
“Mitchell Moses and Jack Littlejohn are setting high standards for everyone and have been pushing each other,’’ Taylor said.
“You need players lifting the level so the others can be dragged along by them. They’re doing a good job of that.
“As far as Mitch goes, I’m not looking for anything more than what he did in that back half of the season. The hardest thing in the NRL is maintaining form, not improving, but putting good performances together like he did. He just has to stay grounded and focused and remember what got him those results.
“It’s exciting the way he’s training at moment because he’s showing he’s taking nothing for granted.’’
Matt Ballin was sarcastically applauded when he ran on to the field on Thursday, with the words “male model’’ yelled out from his teammates.
He has resumed running after two ruptured ACLs, and could be doing contact work early in the new year.
James Tedesco has also not taken part in any contact because of nose surgery but judging by how sharp he looked, it won’t be long before he reaches peak physical condition.
Jamal Idris was sidelined after he tweaked his hamstring.
And young forward Josh Aloiai did not make the four-day camp in the Illawarra, which featured a biathlon on Bulli Beach, as well as a tough climb to Sublime Point lookout, after he broke his jaw during a beach session almost a fortnight ago when tackled by Ava Seumanusagai.