Tigers star stood down from leadership group as player discontent grows
By Michael Chammas and Adam Pengilly
July 7, 2021 — 6.22pm
Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma was stood down from the club’s senior leadership group after turning up to training hungover the morning after the wedding of chairman Lee Hagipantelis’ daughter.
Nofoaluma, who was at the wedding alongside coach Michael Maguire, chief executive Justin Pascoe and head of football Adam Hartigan, was unable to finish the session the following morning.
The news comes as multiple sources at the club told the Herald there was growing discontent among the players about Maguire, which has been exacerbated by the coach’s post-match comments following the loss to South Sydney.
A clearly frustrated Maguire told Sunday’s press conference he needed “to find men that are going to be accountable” following the defeat, a comment that has gone down badly with some of his players.
Speaking after the same game, South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett blamed “toxic” cultures for the number of lopsided scorelines this season, an observation that has been the subject of text messages between some Tigers players in the aftermath of the 38-22 defeat.
The Nofoaluma incident occurred three days after the Tigers’ round-11 loss to the Warriors on the Central Coast, the veteran winger’s 150th NRL game.
Nofoaluma has a close relationship with Hagipantelis’ daughter, the pair having formed a bond after he visited her in hospital as she battled leukemia in 2014.
Nofoaluma has apologised to the team for his actions, in which he was unable to finish a session and went home feeling under the weather on the Monday leading into the team’s Friday night game against the Dragons.
It is understood Nofoaluma, who recently signed a four-year extension with his junior club, wasn’t dropped for the Dragons game because the club had organised plans to celebrate his 150th NRL appearance at their home match at Bankwest Stadium.
The incident didn’t seem to affect his performance against the Dragons, the winger scoring a try and running for close to 200 metres in the 34-18
The club’s senior leadership team now consists of James Tamou, Luke Brooks, Alex Twal and Adam Doueihi following the removal of Nofoaluma with the blessing of those in the group.
Pascoe confirmed the club had dealt with the matter internally but declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.
The indiscretion of the longest-serving Tigers player will do little to pacify concerned fans, with the Tigers having recorded just five wins in 16 games this season.
Nofoaluma’s frustrations with the team’s predicament boiled over on social media on Monday when he defended himself against criticism from a supporter over his defence.
“It’s sad that I get blamed for defensive decision,” Nofoaluma is reported to have said in a post on Twitter that was later taken down.
“In the first half our A and B defenders didn’t get up to put pressure than [sic] Moses [Mbye] was getting caught so left 3 on 2 for myself and Jet [James Roberts]. In second half we got up in one line of defence and if you watched 2nd half D’d very well.”
Pressure is mounting on Maguire to turn the club around after three seasons at the helm. The result against the Broncos following the bye could have major ramifications for his future, as the Tigers await the arrival of Tim Sheens as a consultant.
Sources at the Tigers told the Herald discontent about Maguire was at an all-time high and that Bennett’s comments after the game had resonated with a squad that is struggling for answers.
“Management of clubs has a huge result on performances at the moment,” Bennett said. “Clubs have got to take a hell of a lot more responsibility than they are taking for the way the game is being played. It’s as simple as that.
“I’m not going to name names and not going to name clubs, but if you look at some of the decisions they’ve made, some of the things that have happened to players … I wouldn’t want to be at that club and I know if I was in that club, I wouldn’t be playing very well.
“I listen to you guys … you keep blaming the players. You’re so off the mark it doesn’t matter. You’re not in club land, you don’t understand how it works. Until the club itself gets their management in order, their whole ship, the club, the players will not be able to respond.
“But you keep blaming the players. You’re saying, ‘They get paid so they should go out there and play’. Not one of you guys go to a toxic environment to work and do your best work … the easy blame is to put the blame on the player because he’s not playing well, or the team’s not playing well. You’ve got to look deeper than that guys, because that’s where the problem is.”
Sack him. I wish