Tigers coach Ivan Cleary has been left irritated with claims his Tigers have been disrespected
Mark St John
FOX SPORTSMay 9, 20189:52am
TIGERS coach Ivan Cleary has been irritated by suggestions his team were taken lightly in the opening two months of the season.
The Tigers have been one of the surprise packets of the 2018, winning five of their first six games, but have had a dip in form with three consecutive losses.
On the eve of their Round 10 clash with the Cowboys the question was put to Cleary whether he thought his team were taken lightly at the start of the year.
“I don’t know do you,” Cleary said.
“It’s all the evolution of a season.
“We did have a fair bit of success early in the season and what comes with that is external influences and distractions.
“People start talking guys up and that never happened at the start of the year.
“We’ve had two very narrow losses and then last week is the first game we have been outplayed.
“That’s part of the evolution of a season and all part of learning.”
One thing is for certain if they were at the start of the season, teams are no longer taking the Tigers lightly and Cleary has addressed the issue with his players.
“I think it’s important to have internal reference points,” Cleary said.
“That’s easier to say and harder to do.
“Probably as the season has progressed there has been more external pressures.
“It’s about winding it back and getting the guys to focus on what we believe in and what we value.
“If we can do that well, the results will flow.”
A plus for the Tigers is the return of club co-captain Russell Packer and Cleary was happy to have one of his team’s leaders back on the park.
“Russell is a natural leader and a real leader in our team,” Cleary admitted.
“We have a number of leaders and they are all slightly different.
“Russell is one of those guys, who articulates what he is feeling.
“I think the guys like playing with him and he has a certain presence about him.
“He will definitely lift the team.”
One player who has had a mixed season to date is Jacob Liddle, who was named on the bench with Elijah Taylor picked to start at hooker.
Cleary has mixed up his hooker options so far this season depending on the opposition and the resources he has had available.
“Jacob Liddle is a guy that is earmarked for the future here at the Tigers,” Cleary said.
“We have a lot of faith in him and he has a lot of potential and is a really good young player.
“Jacob has had an injury disrupted preseason and he is still a young guy, so I have him on the bench this week.
“Elijah is a guy who can play hooker and has always been able to play different positions.
“We feel like that is the right combination at the moment and we will push forward with that, but we also have some other options in the squad.
“That is just what our squad is like and we have said that we will probably use the whole lot at various stages.
“There is no doubt we have to play better than we have in the past couple of weeks and that is all we are trying to do.”
The game against the Cowboys will be club legend and five-eighth Benji Marshall’s first game back at Leichaardt since returning to the club.
“Speaking to Benji he has had a lot of games here and he’s been a big part of the history of the Tigers,” Cleary said.
“He is definitely looking forward to the game and has a strong affiliation with the ground.
“I think it is his first game here in five years.
“All the guys like playing and training here and are looking forward to the occasion.”