Long time observer, first time poster here. As a passionate supporter of the Wests Tigers, I enjoy this forum for ITK info & all the insights. Given we’re all a bit low from recent performances, I wanted to share some of my insights to keep our ‘dream’ alive & show there is a method to what the club & Madge are out to achieve.
Firstly, I have no inside knowledge of the plans of the club, just years of experience working in footy clubland (another code) & sports PR so I have a fair idea on the landscape that the footy dept & club management/admin have to work within.
I was ecstatic with Madge’s appointment & continue to be excited with the decisions being made by Madge & management to set the club up for future success & sustained high performance on the footy field. To name a few - the appointment of Adam Hartigan, our recruitment model, acknowledgment of a previous lack of pathway for indigenous talent into the club (now being addressed in a big way), identifying a talent opportunity to ‘own’ (i.e. PNG talent), the COE at Concord & bringing in a tough, resilient, elite culture into the club etc.
In this time as hard as it may be as a member & fan, we need to stick solid knowing that short-term pain will be offset by long-term gain. We just need to remember the current Madge regime has ‘only’ been on board since 2019 & inherited massive salary cap & multi-year contract issues from previous regimes. We are actually only in the early stages of the Madge regime with the roster still to be evolved significantly in the next 1-2 seasons.
Now when the coach is given the opportunity to see through his plans & strategies, the result often does follow but not before short-term pain. Here are a few of my examples …
From Round 12, 2003 to premiers, 2005
A premiership was a pipe dream for the club in the middle of 2003 yet we achieved the feat 2 seasons later. We were 2 wins, 8 losses, 1 bye after Round 11 in 2003 (including multiple floggings). A similar (not same) predicament we find ourselves in now. Back then Tim Sheens re-invented the way we played which took some time & had to wait until we had developed/recruited the personnel to execute it. Sounds eerily similar to today.
Interestingly, 11 players out of our 17 from the 2005 GF played in 2003 in many losses. 4 of these players played 4 or less games in 03 (Farah, Fulton, Gibbs, Marshall, all still teenagers). We can draw parallels to today with the likes of Jake Simpkin, Tuki Simpkins (possible debut later this season), Laurie, Utoikamanu, Blore, Talau, Seyfarth, maybe others.
In 2004 we recruited Elford, Hodgson, Payten, Prince, Richards - Prince & Hodgson looking to re-ignite their careers (hmmm Hastings). In 2004, we had 2 defeats (50-0, 50-4) in Rounds 14-15 so things hadn’t clicked then. In 2005 we brought in Whatuira, the final piece to our premiership puzzle.
Penrith Panthers U20 Class of 2015/16 to GF in 2020
Not too dissimilar to Wests Tigers of 2005 is Penrith of 2020. The Panthers went from finishing 10th in 2018 to minor premiers 2 seasons later. With Ivan Cleary in charge & much talent at his disposal, they were 2 wins 8 losses after Round 10 2018 including 3 floggings in a row.
But they gelled & success built on developing their juniors - the likes of Naden, Edwards, May, Luai, Cleary, Leota, Fisher-Harris, Martin were part of their SG Ball, Holden Cup success in 2014-16. No big money recruits unless I’m mistaken were a part of their GF team.
Another football code but still proves a point
I am also a passionate Hawthorn man in the AFL & am grateful for what coach Alastair Clarkson did in 2004/05. He re-shaped his roster with youth & those experienced players committed to a resilient culture (treks along the Kokoda track were annual bonding & character building exercises). He had to endure a couple of poor seasons on the field until the Hawks made the finals & then premiership in 2008, & many finals appearances & premierships over the following 8 seasons.
What I take from this ‘look back at history’ to keep our current dream alive is …
• We can believe in Madge’s process even if things aren’t clicking right now.
• It may take a year or 2 longer than these NRL examples because of the dire squad/pathways predicament we were in.
• We currently have many of the cattle to give us a Top 4 team in future & some are in the lower grades who we may not even be considering atm. We don’t need to buy the expensive recruits, just be shrewd with who we bring in to complement our culture/team.
Hope this provides a different perspective on things & encourages some more debate.