Wests Tigers have fallen into their same old trap again | Crawley Files
Here we are again, heading into the back end of another season and the NRL’s most frustrating club are on the brink of missing the finals for the ninth straight year. How has this happened again?
Paul Crawley, The Daily Telegraph
August 20, 2020 8:00am
Wests Tigers are the rugby league version of a parachute. Every year they just find a way to slowly let their fans down.
Here we are again, heading into the back-end of another season and the NRL’s most frustrating club are on the brink of missing the finals for the ninth straight year.
Currently ninth on the ladder — what a surprise (not) — it will continue the game’s longest play-offs drought. But the really scary thing is if they don’t upset the injury-ravaged Sydney Roosters on Saturday, there is every chance the Tigers won’t win another game this year.
However fanciful it may seem that they can upset the premiers, judging by last week’s one-point win over last-placed Canterbury, what’s to follow is the finish from hell.
After the Roosters, they take on Penrith followed by Manly (who will have Tom Trbojevic back by then), South Sydney, Melbourne and Parramatta.
The Tigers will start outsiders in all those games.
It would be a disaster if they finish lower than the ninth they came last year but it seems odds-on to happen.
Every year it’s the same sorry story.
The Tigers promise so much but it ends in broken dreams.
In January, chief executive Justin Pascoe spoke with tremendous positivity when he addressed the club’s website.
The Tigers had just signed the Leilua brothers, Joey and Luciano, and picked up Zane Musgrove along with Adam Doueihi, and Harry Grant was coming.
They had also extended the contracts of Alex Twal and Tommy Talau, and there was genuine excitement when Pascoe explained how the Tigers had been “patient” and “strategic” in rebuilding their roster, getting their salary cap back in shape.
He claimed they’d set themselves up as a “destination club, where players and also staff want to come”.
“Like the other 15 clubs, our goal and aspiration is very simple: we are here to win the premiership,” Pascoe said.
But fast forward seven months and it’s Groundhog Day.
What worries me even more is that only last week a different story came out which seemed to suggest more pain was to come next year — with only $300,000 to spend if they fail in a bid to offload Josh Reynolds, Luke Brooks, Russell Packer and Moses Mbye.
Perhaps it was to prepare fans for the inevitable. But surely the fans must be fed up with the excuses.
THE BLAME GAME
As good a job as Ivan Cleary is doing with Penrith, he left a salary cap nightmare for Michael Maguire to clean up at Wests Tigers.
Even so, I’m not so sure the Tigers spent wisely this year.
The signing of Joey Leilua in particular, was a brain explosion waiting to happen — and they paid massive money to get him from Canberra. And as solid as young Doueihi is, he is hardly a steal on $600,000-plus a year.
Now there’s talk they want to try and get Josh Addo-Carr by apparently throwing the lure that he can play fullback, which was the same sell for Doueihi. If this is the case, where’s the strategy?
Addo-Carr has proved himself a terrific winger, but it would be a huge gamble to try and turn him into a fullback now. It just smacks of another quick fix, exactly what they blame Cleary for doing.
Yet Tigers fans must get so frustrated watching a young superstar like Ryan Papenhuyzen emerge at Melbourne knowing they had him but lost him. Just as they lost James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses, Aaron Woods, Andrew Fifita and the rest of them over the years.
SECURE THE FUTURE
It’s not as if the Tigers can’t produce talent, they just need to work out how to keep the right ones.
This is where as a club they really need to clean up their act because I just continue to see too many top kids coming out of what should be their western Sydney region and heading to other NRL clubs.
At least they appear to have learned something when it comes to the age of recruits – with their three most recent in Shawn Blore (Panthers), Asu Kepaoa (Roosters) and Stefano Utoikamanu (Eels) all starting their careers.
Young hooker Jake Simpkin is another exciting prospect, while Talau could be special. While there’s plenty of talent among their forwards, it could be at least two years before they’re anywhere near reaching their full potential.
The retirement of Chris Lawrence this week was sad but to his credit the veteran conceded his time was up.
Now the question is whether Benji Marshall can/should go another year, and if he doesn’t who can fill the void?
If Reynolds stays it will most likely be between him and Billy Walters to partner Brooks, although there has been a lot of expectation on former Australian Schoolboy Jock Madden for some time.
For whatever reason, Maguire has been reluctant to give the kid a go. Maguire has copped his fair share of criticism in recent weeks for swapping and changing his side too much.
But maybe over the closing six weeks it might be worth seeing if Madden is ready for NRL level.
What’s to lose given the finals look gone for another year?
COACH UNDER PRESSURE
For all the knocks that Maguire is too tough, the last thing this club needs is another change of coach.
I still think resurrecting the Tigers will be Maguire’s toughest coaching job.
While he won a premiership at Souths, a lot of the heavy lifting was done before he arrived in respect to building the roster by Shane Richardson and Johnny Lang, along with Russell Crowe’s influence.
Maguire took over a tremendous squad that included Greg Inglis and Sam Burgess, John Sutton and young guns Adam Reynolds and Luke Keary.
Now it’s Maguire’s turn to try and make the Tigers that “destination club” Pascoe spoke about.
But after watching another year disappear with still no clear direction, it must be especially frustrating for their long-suffering fans.