February 16 2017 - 6:00AM
Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor sticks to his guns as make or break season approaches
Two weeks out from his rendezvous with Robbie Farah, off-contract Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor opens up on the criticism he copped from his own supporters and the pressure to hold on to his job.
Michael Chammas - SMH
Jason Taylor knows he won’t win a popularity contest among Wests Tigers fans. But he’s okay with that – as long as he’s winning footy games.
If this was to be his last season in charge of the Tigers, he’ll be remembered as the man who ousted a club legend.
But if he can help return the Tigers to finals football for the first time in five years, the severely criticised stance he took against Robbie Farah may just be remembered as the catalyst for a new era at the joint-venture club.
The poignant scenes at Leichhardt Oval last July when Farah was ordered to play NSW Cup won’t be forgotten in a hurry.
“JT is a dog” – one banner read.
“F##K JT, we love Robbie” – said another.
The Tigers coach wasn’t there that day, but it was impossible to ignore the 2000 Farah-adoring fans who were calling for the coach’s head.
“It actually wasn’t that hard to see,” Taylor told Fairfax Media.
"That stuff you saw at Leichhardt that day was based out of passion. I know that all the decisions I make are made for the right reasons – and that’s what is best for the club. The decisions I make are based on what I believe is 100 per cent the best thing for the club.
“So what that brings is what you saw that day. That’s their passion and love for the club. We all have that in common. And I’m confident the decisions that were made have been the right ones and I suppose we’ll see that down the track.”
With his four biggest stars weighing up whether to remain in Tiger town or venture elsewhere, and his own career beyond 2017 in limbo, there is enormous pressure on Taylor to get his side firing from their round-one clash against the Rabbitohs.
The club hasn’t started discussions with the coach about 2018, taking a wait and see approach for what will be a make or break season for the former South Sydney coach.
“I haven’t had any discussions and I think that’s right,” Taylor said.
"Everybody wants to see how we start the season and that’s understandable. The pressure is on in this game. It’s always on. It doesn’t get any more in my opinion. It just goes with the territory.
“It’s imperative we start well and we’re working hard to do that. All of the other stuff [contract talk] can add to it if we think about it but I’m not going to think about it. We want to win – it’s as simple as that.”
All the talk leading into the mouth-watering Friday night grudge match against the Rabbitohs will centre around the feud between Taylor and Farah.
While it was an emotional ordeal for Farah, who drew on the sympathy and admiration of the Tigers fans to get him through it, Taylor was slammed by fans for marching the former captain out of his own home.
But he insists his commitment to the cause never wavered despite the criticism levelled at him from most of the club’s supporters.
“It’s part of the game. It’s part of this job,” Taylor said. "Some stuff might be more high-profile than others, but there’s always stuff going on that can knock you around mentally if you’re not up for it. It’s all part of the job and I love it. I love being a head coach and I love what goes with it – and that’s all of that stuff. So I’m not about to say last year was really tough, because it was a footy season. They’re hard.
“Round one for us will be the same as it was last year and it will be the same as round one was for us the year before. That’s all it is – a game of footy against an opposition we want to get two points against. It is 100 per cent nothing more than that for me. But I understand it’s great for us to help build the rivalry and the crowd we get for that game because it’s going to be good.”
It doesn’t get much easier for the Tigers after round one, taking on three of last year’s top six teams (Panthers, Raiders, Storm) in the next three rounds.
While there is huge importance on their start to the season, Taylor insists the cloud over his future is not the motivation heading into the new year.
“If you’re setting goals any higher just because you’re coming off-contract then you’re making a mistake in the first place if you weren’t already setting them that high,” Taylor said.
"It doesn’t change anything for me. It’s all based around what’s best for the club going forward. We’re making decisions about the future of the club.
“I’m not just making decisions about what happens this year because at this point in time it’s my last year. I believe that’s the way to do the job and get the best out of the job. Whether I’m here or not next year, that will sort itself out down the track.”