Senior Wests Tigers players told coach Michael Maguire about the need to lighten the mood and enjoy each other’s company more after the weekend’s heavy defeat, starting with a few extra cartons of beer on the bus back from Newcastle.
Maguire was composed after the 44-4 drubbing against the Knights on Saturday and refused to launch into one of his dressing-room tirades. He instead asked the players what they thought was needed to turn the club’s fortunes around.
At least one senior player made it known COVID-19 had made it difficult for the players to socialise, and training had become a grind.
Others said they were determined to keep training as hard as ever, but wanted to better use the limited time they had together away from the field.
Knowing it was Chris Lawrence’s 250th NRL game and Benji Marshall’s 250th in the club’s colours, some of the players asked Maguire to stock up on a few extra cartons of beer to make the long trip home more enjoyable.
Smiles were on faces again on Tuesday as Maguire kept it light-hearted with a series of games.
The usual noise about Maguire being too hard on the players has resurfaced on the back of a couple of disappointing defeats to the Knights and the Warriors.
Andrew Gray, the club’s high-performance manager, has spotted no red flags with the players when it comes to workloads.
Maguire has certainly not lost the dressing room, and was said to have taken on board a lot of the feedback that spilled out from his players underneath McDonald Jones Stadium.
Prop Russell Packer said Maguire opening the floor to the players was not a sign of a coach under pressure.
"Madge has definitely not run out of answers, he’s an experienced coach who has won premierships here and in England,’’ Packer said.
"We’re in a tough hole at the moment. The boys need to fight our way out of it. We have a must-win game this weekend against Canterbury. All our energy needs to be on this game.’’
Packer said COVID-19 had taken its toll on everyone and ‘‘the status quo changed in terms of social interaction’’.
Adam Doueihi was overcome with emotion at half-time, and again at full-time, against the Knights. Packer was one of the first to console him.
"Obviously with all the stuff that happened over in Lebanon, he’s proud of his heritage and he was pretty emotional during the week,’’ Packer said.
"I guess it all came out with him at the end of the game. I noticed him alone, he got emotional, I didn’t say anything to him, I just let him know I was there.
"This game brings out a lot of emotion in people, and it can be compounded with unfortunate events and really sad situations happening around the world.’’
Maguire has rushed Jacob Liddle back into the No. 9 jersey. Maguire told the Herald just last week the hooker, who overcame a ruptured ACL, ‘‘had been extraordinary with the way he’d gone about his rehab’’. Josh Reynolds is likely to replace Liddle when he needs an inevitable spell against the Bulldogs.
From the SMH https://t.co/YXttSNvuSF