Better than '05: Farah backs new Tigers
September 3, 2011
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - OCTOBER 3: Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall of the Tigers present the NRL Premiership trophy to the crowd during the Wests Tigers Grand Final celebrations at Campbelltown Sports Ground on October 3, 2005 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Nolan/)
Glory days … Robbie Farah, left, and Benji Marshall with the Arthur Summons and Norm Provan Trophy for winning the 2005 NRL premiership. Photo: Getty Images
WESTS TIGERS skipper Robbie Farah hailed his club’s roster as superior to the one that took out the 2005 premiership title. The star-studded squad’s great challenge now is to emulate the feat of the no-frills mob that entered footy folklore.
The Tigers of '05, who were 80/1 longshots to win the grand final halfway through that season, came in $600,000 under the salary cap because the club had no cash to spend. The squad consisted of journeymen, rejects from other clubs and a group of precocious young guns whose fearlessness was summed up by Benji Marshall’s famous flick pass that set Pat Richards up for a grand final-clinching try.
Farah, who was 21 when he completed that lap of honour after beating the Cowboys, said that unlike Mark O’Neill and Scott Prince - his captains during 2005 - he headed a team stacked with internationals, experience, skill and an exciting blend of youth.
‘‘The potential is there for us to do something,’’ Farah said. ''We’re a lot more balanced team now. We’ve been together for a few years, [whereas] we were thrown together in 2005. We have balance in the right positions. We have internationals, experienced first-graders and, just like we did in 2004-05, we have a group of some very exciting young players, like [prop] Matt Groat. As a squad we’re definitely better. I think this is a better side than the one we had in 2005. Whether we have the same success we had back then, well, I guess we’ll find out over the next few weeks."
The Tigers are equal-third favourites with Brisbane to win the title, behind Melbourne and Manly. ‘‘I’d appreciate it [a title] a lot more now,’’ Farah said. ‘‘I was 21 back then. Liam Fulton and ‘Gibbo’ [Bryce Gibbs] were 21, while Benji was 20. We hadn’t played much first grade and it was like ‘how easy is that?’ [to win the title] and you fall into the trap of thinking it was going to happen again soon. It doesn’t. We’ve only played finals footy once since then. So, I appreciate, and I understand, how hard it is to win a competition. To win another one would be very, very special.’’
The Tigers, who thrashed the Gold Coast at Campbelltown on Monday night are on a mission to secure a home final when they face the Sharks at Cronulla on Saturday night. Farah said one of the club’s match-day strengths was never falling into the trap of ‘‘leave it all to Marshall’’, the Kiwis Test skipper acknowledged as the most exciting playmaker in the game.
‘‘The luxury we have here at the Tigers is there’s myself, Benji and [halfback] Rob Lui as well, and we take pressure off each other,’’ he said. ''If we just gave Benji the ball every time it would become easy for other teams to read. With me in the middle, Benji on the left and Robbie on the right, they don’t know … what we’re going to do.
''Each of us are capable of doing things that could upset the opposition and we have to take advantage of that. I think if you asked Benji, the fact Robbie and I can take some ball off him allows him to come into the game more when he wants to come into it, rather than being forced to always come up with the big play.
‘‘But when you know Benji is on fire and in that zone, you just give him the ball. Though, there are those other games where you know you need to help balance it out.’’
Farah had put his shoulders into his job as skipper this year. After he set himself the goal to improve his defence, he headed into tomorrow’s match having made 759 tackles for the season, 129 more than second-placed Chris Heighington.
Farah said he had practised his defensive game by getting the big Tigers forwards to run at him. ''I challenged myself," he said.