Matty Johns: Tigers are a good attacking team but have a huge defensive problem they won’t address
You finish ninth once, they had the talent. But when you finish ninth as often as the Tigers and people start to expect you to finish there, that says something far worse than being unlucky.
Matty Johns, The Daily Telegraph
September 4, 2020 7:49am
Rugby league people pin plenty of badges on the Wests Tigers.
Some weeks it’s ‘exciting’.
Some weeks it’s ‘disappointing’.
But mostly, it’s ‘inconsistent’ and ‘under-achieving’.
In 2020 it’s less a badge, more a bumper sticker, with a punchline, ‘Wests Tigers, ninth place
specialists.’ It’s a slur.
You see, to finish ninth means you’ve got the talent to play finals football.
You finish ninth once, they had the talent, but: “Too many injuries … The ball just didn’t bounce for them in a few games … They lacked experience.”
But when you finish ninth as often as the Tigers and people start to expect you to finish there, that says something far worse than being unlucky.
The Tigers had a typically inconsistent start to the season, but then really warmed up through late June and early July, showing their talents with some big wins and some tight losses to top teams such as all-conquering Penrith.
But then typically, when their fans started to believe, their season collapsed, losing six of their past seven.
That win, a 29-28 victory over bottom-placed Canterbury.
From the moment their season took a spiral, weekly complaints have leaked out of Concord.
Every club leaks information, but it’s alarming how intimate the details of dressing room discussions at the Tigers.
The Tigers are lost. I sometimes wonder whether they know what type of team they are, what works for them, what doesn’t.
The mirror can be your most favourite or most loathed piece of furniture in your house, it never lies.
I’m going out for dinner, I’ll slip on my jeans, most polished shoes and best shirt and think I look like Brad Pitt, walk past the mirror and see a short, dumpy bloke who’s losing his hair.
What would the mirror tell the Tigers?
If the Tigers, as a team, sat down and put together a game plan as if they were playing themselves, what would that game plan be?
If that game plan was hung on a wall in the dressing room, so that every time the players walked in and saw it, would they be proud?
The Tigers are a talented group of players. Let me adjust that, they are a talented attacking team. In attack they rank fifth in the competition.
But if you were to do a mathematical equation in relation to attack and defence, it would be effectively, the quality of your defence dictates how many risks you can take with the football.
Going by that, the Tigers can barely take a risk because they can’t defend errors.
The Tigers have a big defensive problem which they can’t or won’t address. The styles of defence clubs use in 2020 are very similar. Some have a bias toward holding and sliding, others tend to come at you more aggressively.
Defence is only part technical, its mostly grit and discipline. Defence is a collective cause, where effort is driven by a fear of letting teammates down. You don’t want to be ‘that bloke’.
In the last month there’s been too many of ‘those blokes’ in the Tigers colours.
The Harry Grant situation in itself is cause for alarm. Harry arrived at the Tigers with very little NRL experience, he’d played no football in 2020 and had no real understanding with teammates, yet immediately became the clubs most important player.
His knee injury has coincided with the teams collapse. He returns to the Storm next year.
This week the tom-toms have started beating around Luke Brooks and his future at the Tigers. I don’t subscribe to the theory that it’s time for the Tigers to let Brooks go … not yet.
I’ll declare an interest, I’ve worked with Brooks on a couple of occasions and can see he has
what it takes to make the Tigers successful.
But his time has come. He needs to see himself as an experienced leader, and no longer a young player with potential.
He needs to stop allowing others to take seniority. He needs to stop simply parking himself on the left side, and take control of the whole football team.
It’s his team and his time.