Resurgent Tigers stalk wounded Sharks
Greg Prichard | August 14, 2009
WESTS TIGERS captain Robbie Farah does not want to make the mistake of reaching for fool’s gold.
The Tigers might have burst into the top eight with four rounds to go, but as far as the representative hooker is concerned, it means nothing at this stage.
Asked at training yesterday what it would mean to him for the Tigers to end three years of frustration by playing finals football for the first time since winning the premiership in 2005, Farah said: ‘‘I don’t want to talk about the finals. It’s too far away.’’
When it was suggested they weren’t all that far away, Farah replied: ''A couple of losses and the finals are gone for us. They aren’t even within reaching distance at the moment.
‘‘There are eight teams going for those four spots from fifth to eighth, and if we start thinking about finals now, the same thing will happen that has happened for the last three years. We’re just thinking about this week, and if we get another win, it will be another step forward.’’
In the past three years, the Tigers have been in a position to make the finals during the second half of the season, only to fade out of the top eight during the closing rounds. Now they have done the opposite, and moved into the top eight after looking like they were no chance of making the finals six weeks ago.
You can debate about whether it is better for the Tigers to do it this way, but Farah said if the Tigers started theorising they would only be asking for trouble.
‘‘To be honest, we haven’t really looked at the ladder,’’ he said. ''I’ve been trying to steer away from it, otherwise you get distracted. It’s pretty close from fifth down to 12th. One loss and you’re straight back down and out of it, so I don’t think we can feel we’re comfortably in the eight. Every week is a must-win game.
‘‘The good thing is that our destiny is in our own hands now. We’ve got four games to make sure we cement a spot. If we win our games then we’ll be in the finals. If we don’t then other results come into account, and we’re obviously hoping it doesn’t reach that stage.’’
After five wins in a row, the Tigers are in seventh spot, but, like Farah says, the middle section of the competition table is a minefield.
Fifth-placed Penrith are on 25 points, while the teams placed from sixth to 10th - North Queensland, the Tigers, Manly, Newcastle and Brisbane - are all on 24. South Sydney and Parramatta are 11th and 12th respectively, both on 23 points.
That source of frustration Farah talks about sounds like a valuable motivational tool.
‘‘It’s very frustrating,’’ he said. ''I’ve made no secret of it, that I think we’ve underachieved as a club, and after winning a comp that’s unacceptable. So, at the start of the year, I said that nothing short of making the finals is acceptable, and I’m not going to change my mind.
‘‘It’s there for us to take the opportunity and get there. It’s there if we want it.’’
Farah said Tigers coach Tim Sheens spoke with the players before deciding to hand Toyota Cup player Robert Lui his first-grade debut against Cronulla at Toyota Stadium on Sunday. Lui will play halfback, with Tim Moltzen switching to fullback to cover for the injured Shannon Gallant.
‘‘Coach asked us if we were confident about Robbie coming up into first grade, and we were all 100 per cent behind that,’’ Farah said. ''He’s been killing them in Toyota Cup, and he deserves the opportunity he’s got. Hopefully, he can take the way he’s been playing in the under-20s and bring it into the top grade.
‘‘He’s a good kid, a confident kid. He’s got a heap of talent, and I know he’s going to enjoy the moment … so it’s a special day for him.’’