The West Tigers are officially the biggest flops of the 2012 NRL season. At the start of the year they were hailed as premiership favorites but last nights insipid performance against the Storm, with a finals spot on the line no less, fittingly capped of an insipid year. So while Benji and the boys are giving themselves swift uppercuts , the Tigers board have announced they’ll be launching an inquiring into the season so they can find out why the boys from Leichhardt (and Campbeltown) tanked so hard. The following should be on the agenda.
If this guy coached in the AFL he would have been collecting dole cheques after they’re 1 from 7 start to the season. Now with 3 finals appearances from his last 15 seasons, many are questioning why he has the safest job in the game. His vast experience has never been question but he doesn’t seem to be able to get the best out of his players. There are also contractual issues that complicate his sacking. Hey, I’m no administrator but maybe moving Sheens on to Coaching Director where he can play out the part of the wise old Rugby League Shaman and bring in some new blood would be the spring clean the club needs.
The Tigers have two bonafide superstars in Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah but it has become clear that it is Farrar that is so integral to the Tigers success rather than Marshall. Farah provides the structure while Marshall’s hail-marry plays swung to often from the sublime to the silly. With Farah missing the last two crunch games, the Tigers lacked any cohesion or direction. They are in need of another genuine playmaker to take pressure off or cover Farah when injured and free Marshall to play his natural game. Curtis Sironen was playing well (for a rookie) but will have to come on along way in the off season if he is to be that man. The forwards destined (surely?) Braith Anasta signing should certainly bring more structure and creativity but I’m not sure he is a Farah worthy replacement due to his aging legs and how he has failed to truly control the Roosters sloppy attack this year.
As far as worst buys for the season goes, Adam Blair rates up towards the Chris Sandow end of the scale. Brought in to be a leader amongst the already intimidating Tigers pack, Blair has largely been a passenger. He lacked much of the urgency, penetration, and defensive fire he was renowned for in he Melbourne which leads me to believe it’s a player management problem or a player believing the hype problem. It’s not that he was awful, just average. A star signing should deliver more.
Every team has their own horror stories and to be honest, the Tigers haven’t fared that bad. Losing Farah late season was a disaster, and as good as he season was going, had probably never fully recovered from the physically and emotionally draining Origin series which included his mothers much publicised passing. Losing Gareth Ellis the better part of the season certainly sucked but for the most part the Tigers pack rose to the occasion. Keith Galloway also had his injury worries and they certainly missed Liam Fulton creativity in the middle. Other than that, Long term injuries to Sironen, who will benefit greatly from his brief stint in 1st grade, and Lote Tiquiri, who in his twilight years has become extremely solid and dependable rather than a match winner, were the only other big hurdles.
Robbie Farah took his game to another level during Origin this year. Young prop Aaron Woods was a standout in a pretty decent and consistent Tigers pack. And then there and there was the emergence of Fijian speedster and rise of cult figure Marika Koroibete. With a bit more back line structure, Koroibete could be surpass fellow Fijian Akuila Uate as the comps must destructive winger.
Calling a team that was in the hunt for the 8 right up until the last round may seem a bit dramatic, especially given some of the other obvious contenders. The Eels were very bad and the Warriors, well I’d almost feel sorry for their fans but they’ve got the goddamn All Black’s to fall back on, so I’d point to the Tigers frustrating inconstancy. They were always one play away from brilliance but to often it fell apart. And of the wins they managed to snatch, a lot were often by slim margins against the the bottom half teams. They are a teamed who everyone thought would sort their shit out come seasons end, and had they turned up ready to play at a couple of the shocker losses like against the Roosters last week, then they would be a real finals dark horse with the ability to stretch any team on their day. Well there’s always next year.
This seemed pretty appropriate.
Pictures by Mark Kolbe at Getty Images