Benji backs Tigers leaders to keep a lid on hype
Tue 3 Sep 2019, 03:01 PM
After eight years in the finals wilderness the gentle purr of the Wests Tigers over the past few seasons is turning into a roar in 2019.
“What we’re trying to change at this club is habits around losing being acceptable and missing semi-finals being acceptable,” said skipper Benji Marshall after he led his side to a 42-14 caning of the Dragons at the SCG last weekend.
Marshall is stand-in skipper for injured skipper Moses Mbye, who played in the Bulldogs’ 2014 grand final side and is one of the key voices the Wests Tigers will use this week to keep everyone on-topic for Sunday’s finals showdown with the Sharks.
“We’re pretty lucky that we’ve got a good group of leaders who sort of control the narrative in the way the group thinks and how we behave,” Marshall said.
He and Robbie Farah – in or out – were premiership winners with the club in 2005. Elijah Taylor played in the 2011 grand final with the Warriors.
Match Highlights: Dragons v Wests Tigers
Chris Lawrence was a member of the Wests Tigers team that lost the 2010 preliminary final to the Dragons (13-12), and alongside Marshall and Farah is a survivor from the last time the joint-venture club played finals in 2011.
Marshall says there’s an undercurrent of high-level experience in the club – every player bar Mbye has played internationally and the Queenslander played Origin this year.
That is where the coaxing and also the control will come from to make sure no player gets ahead of themselves.
“I feel like we can keep a lid on things by the conversations we have together,” Marshall said.
"Obviously there will be a lot of talk about it. Semi-finals football up for grabs… the exciting thing for us is that we’re part of the talk – we’re a chance of being there.
“We haven’t been in this position for a long time so it is exciting.”
Emotions of being first-timers in the finals could both help and hinder player preparations.
Maguire: Farah won’t put himself forward if he’s not right
“I suppose you can draw on it,” Marshall said of the euphoria around postcode 2040 as Leichhardt locals dust off their gold, black and white jerseys.
He is smart enough to know that senior players and coach Michael Maguire – himself a premiership-winner in both the NRL (Rabbitohs 2014) and Super League (Wigan 2010) – will divert all distractions like Farah’s availability so that nothing is left to chance against Cronulla.
“Instead of worrying about the final outcome of the week we’ve been narrowing it down to not only one game at a time but one set at a time,” Marshall said.
“So you narrow your focus completely and this week will be exactly the same.”