Matthew Trodden - SMH
March 19, 2011
Coach Tim Sheens has offered no excuses for the Wests Tigers’ poor start to the season but concedes the off-field drama surrounding star playmaker Benji Marshall has been an unwanted distraction for the club.
Marshall played his first game since he was charged with assault in Monday night’s 24-14 loss to Canterbury, scoring a brilliant individual try to get his side back into the contest. But the five-eighth and the team were not at their best, and on the eve of the Tigers’ return to their spiritual home at Leichhardt Oval tonight to face the Warriors, Sheens said the players needed to again focus solely on their footy.
‘‘We’re not going to use that as an excuse or anything like that but I’d prefer it not to be there,’’ Sheens said of Marshall’s assault charge. ‘‘I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t some sort of distraction for everybody but there’s so many things during a season that so-called distract you. You’ve got to get on with it, you’ve got to leave your problems at home when you come to football, you’ve got to be able to switch off your issues … and turn on when you get to football.’’
While Sheens described Marshall’s performance on Monday night as ‘‘hot and cold’’, he said the Tigers’ kicking game had let them down.
‘‘Overall our game wasn’t too bad … and once we get [our kicking game] right, and I’d like to think at Leichhardt we can, then I think we’ll be back where we want to be,’’ Sheens said.
Captain Robbie Farah agreed, saying it was crucial he and his fellow playmakers created more pressure with a strong kicking game.
‘‘You can have a really bad set and turn it into a good set with a good kick, and vice versa,’’ Farah said. ‘‘We’ve got myself, and Robbie [Lui] and Benji there, and Tim Moltzen’s a kicker as well, so between us you’d like to think we can get it right.’’
Of equal concern leading into the clash with the Warriors is the fitness of key forwards Bryce Gibbs (knee) and Gareth Ellis (ankle).
Gibbs has been struggling with his knee after undergoing surgery in the off-season, and was forced to sit out the opening-round defeat, while Ellis picked up a knock on the ankle late against the Bulldogs.
Neither player trained in the team’s final run yesterday but Sheens said he would give them until just before the match to prove their fitness.