THERE’S nothing like aiming high. On the eve of the NRL season, prop Bryce Gibbs has revealed that Wests Tigers players believe anything less than first will be a disappointment.
The Tigers finished third last year, making their first finals campaign since their grand final success in 2005. And with effectively the same players on the field this year - with the addition of Tim Moltzen, who plays his first game since a knee reconstruction in tonight’s Foundation Cup against Sydney Roosters - Gibbs believes the Tigers will be better for last season’s deeds.
‘‘We’ve spoken about it,’’ Gibbs said yesterday. ‘‘I think we can go minor premiers. Anything less, we probably wouldn’t be happy with. We were only four points [off] last year, and we lost four in a row - we lost a couple by a couple of points … it has to be there. We’ve got the same team. I think we’ll go good. We’ll probably be even better this year.’’
Advertisement: Story continues below Gibbs’s ability to make good on a bold statement is not just a one-off.
Last year he scribbled on a piece of paper: ‘‘I will retire from NRL if we don’t make the eight.’’ He signed it, and stuck it to the whiteboard in the club’s football manager Alan Mair’s office. Skipper Robbie Farah and winger Beau Ryan later signed it, too.
The Tigers, clearly, are not going to be pressured by being second-favourites in the 2011 premiership betting market, behind 2010 grand-final winners St George Illawarra. They know that not only were they just four points adrift of the Dragons for the minor premiership, they were also just one point off them in the grand-final qualifier.
Gibbs was, and will be, a key man.
That itself is a bold statement, being aimed at a player who has been pigeon-holed somewhere between mongrel and mad man through his career, after infamous run-ins with first Kane Cleal in an SG Ball grand final in 2002, which resulted in his opponent suffering a broken jaw, and then Bulldog Mark O’Meley. But the picture the Tigers are painting, heading into his ninth season in the NRL, is of a maturing man, no longer a hothead. Gibbs is 26.
‘‘Fairly, or unfairly, he has a bit of a reputation that’s built up over the years as a bit of a tearaway,’’ chief executive Stephen Humphreys said. ‘‘From my point of view, he’s totally committed to his teammates, and he’s a great competitor. We wouldn’t swap him for anyone.’’
So much Humphreys signed him recently until the end of 2014.
‘‘I had to [mature], I guess,’’ Gibbs said. ‘‘I couldn’t act like a kid all the time. I still muck around at training, me and Liam [Fulton], but we know there’s a time on the training field to pull our heads in.’’
He is also a husband and a father. He was married to Vanessa, the mother of his two children, in December. His son, Khy - who was born the night before the preliminary final against the Dragons in 2005 - has started school.
Some things don’t change. He remains one of the Tigers’ resident pranksters along with Fulton and Ryan. And he still struggles to score tries - he has had more children since the grand final of 2005 than he has scored tries.
Still, he provides value elsewhere. The last time the Tigers took on the Roosters at the Sydney Football Stadium shows Gibbs’s worth. When centre Shaun Kenny-Dowall was racing away for the golden-point intercept try that won the epic contest, Gibbs was closest to the Kiwi international for most of the journey. Gibbs admitted he should not have been playing as he had made a somewhat premature return from a fractured kneecap.
That injury forced Gibbs under the knife, and meant the prop started running only a fortnight ago. Tonight, he will play his first trial of 2011. It’s a year he hopes will begin and end with ‘‘first’’; who is willing to doubt him?
last year all i asked for was for the team to be dominant. prelims, semis… anywhere in the finals would make me happy as long as we finished the season STRONG
we did that!
Now they have to take it one step more; there really is no excuse…
The squad is stronger, the players are more learned and there isn’t as single position in our starting side that isn’t being pushed by a quality alternative.
THAT is the position that a team strives to be in. THAT is the position that we are in now and THAT is the position that St George, Penrith, Easts and Souths are NOT in.
That is why we will finish top 2 and that is why we will win the premiership.
see you in october
we have seen over the years that players talk it up in off season and there team does not make the finals.
souths were classic example last season.
whilst it is good to make statements, they are not worth a pinch of …. if not backed up with good performances, and wests-tigers making the finals.
once there progress to grand final