Farah: We’re getting back our identity

With over a decade of no finals games for the Wests Tigers, the man who last captained them in one believes the club is heading towards its former glories.

Speaking in his very open and in-depth interview with WestsLife podcast, Robbie Farah believes bringing back players from the 2005 grand final squad or those part of the 2010 and 2011 finals campaigns, as well as the coach who took them there is going a long way towards that.

“There’s no secret from me, I think the club lost its identity there for a few years,” Farah told us.

“I think we’re slowly starting to get that back. We’ve got Tigers people getting back involved, Sheensy’s back, Benji’s back, Patty Richards, Chris Lawrence, all these guys that are part of the Tigers fabric.”

Farah believes a lot of on field success is going to come from the improvement he can see by the Wests Tigers behind the scenes.

“Off the field we are getting our ducks in order,” Farah said.
“We’ve got the Centre of Excellence which should be ready in a few months. I think we’ve made some really good signings moving forward, next year with Api (Koroisau) and Isaiah Papali’i coming on board. We have some new kids we saw some development last year like Stefano (Utoikamanu), Daine Laurie, Shawn Blore who unfortunately is going to miss this whole season with the knee. Adam Doueihi as well, I thought he became a leader last year…so there’s a lot of positive signs at the club.

Listen to our interview with Robbie Farah on the WestsLife podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean.

“It’s not a quick fix. I think everyone has to be realistic about that as well, but in my opinion there’s no doubt we’re heading in the right direction.”

A major change off the field for the Wests Tigers in 2022 is the return of Farah’s premiership winning coach Tim Sheens.

“Sheensy is part of the fabric of the club,” Farah said.

“Coach of the only premiership we’ve won. He brings a wealth of knowledge and he’s got an aura about him and has a lot of respect in the game. So to have him back in the club I think is awesome for us.

“He really hasn’t been on field in terms of training, you only sort of see him popping around in the background, but his job at the moment is in terms of the recruitment, the pathways and development of our juniors.

“I think we’re making big strides there as a club. We’re really putting a lot of work into our pathways. We’ve got a really big junior base out west and around Balmain and we’ve got to make sure that we’re making sure that we’re holding onto the best players and coming through. Making sure that they grow up wanting to play for the Tigers like I did and like Benji did, Bryce Gibbs, Liam Fulton and Dene Halatau. For us we not only wanted to play first grade, we wanted to play first grade for the Tigers and I think we’ve got to get that back in the club. Where our local juniors get back to where they want to pull on the black, gold and white jersey and play their careers at the Tigers.

“We’ve seen too many Tigers juniors go on to other clubs and further their career. Where really they should be doing it in our colours.”

Listen to the full interview with Robbie Farah now on the WestsLife podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and Podbean.


Doueihi: The Brisbane bubble is our second chance at finals run

After their win against the Broncos, the Wests Tigers are just two points behind eighth place and very much still in finals contention.

However there’s no denying that it will take winning almost all of their seven remaining games of the season.

Fresh off his five try assists in said win against Brisbane, five eighth Adam Doueihi said in his interview on the WestsLife Podcast the emergency move out of Sydney is being seen by the team as an opportunity, rather than a crisis.

“We’re sort of seeing this bubble up here in Brisbane as a second chance for us” Doueihi said.

“And the boys should take a lot of confidence from the win last week against the Broncos and take into this week against Manly.”

And what the team needs to improve to get the desired results, is pretty obvious according to Doueihi:

“It’s easily our defence.

“We are talking about our defence internally and how to improve it. The past few weeks we’ve put in a few different systems and standards that we’re aiming to get to.

“I think we took a big step last weekend against the Broncos and there are a few new combos out wide and through the middle.

“We’re still trying to get used to playing with each other and knowing what each player does inside and outside of us.

“But as long as we can keep improving our defence, our attack is not going to be our issue.”

Listen to the full interview with Adam Doueihi on the WestsLife podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean.

With players in the Wests Tigers lineup having been changed positions throughout the year, including Doueihi’s move from the halves to centre and then back to the halves again, he says the talk and belief in each other are big factors.

“Communication is a big one obviously,” Doueihi says.

“With new combos and also new players with different sorts of habits, it’s about players finding out what habits they are and how to have that trust to know that the inside player is going to come and help us and work out to the sideline.”

Despite the confidence of a strong run home, Doueihi says he understands the frustration of the fanbase. Especially growing up being a Wests Tigers fan and junior of the club himself.

“We’re a pretty big club and cover a lot of regions in the Sydney area,” he said.

“But we have the biggest finals drought in the competition. So when the club is losing, I guess fans aren’t happy and obviously the media are going to be into us every now and then when we are not getting the results we are after.

“We know that comes along with our job. We’ve got passionate fans and they should jump up and down when we aren’t getting the results.

“I guess until that happens, it’s going to keep happening.”

The Wests Tigers face the redhot Manly Sea Eagles at 5:30pm on Saturday at Suncorp Stadium.


Opinion: Wests Tigers need their next Robbie Farah

Our beloved team – amongst other adjectives – can be described as ‘baffling’ right now. The media says we need a new coach. Fans say we need a new board or better players (or both). Players are pointing fingers at each other literally on the field. Almost everyone says they need to burn it down and start again. Again.

My late grandfather was born and raised in Balmain. He had many opinions on things, but none like that of anything regarding our beloved Tigers. One of my most memorable opinions of his was back in 2016 when then coach Jason Taylor dropped club veteran and hooker Robbie Farah to reserve grade.

Pa, like many Wests Tigers fans, was disgusted by the treatment of Farah. A lot of it was because of Farah’s longtime loyalty to the club, but “how can you possibly drop a hooker who’s good enough to play for NSW?”, Pa said. At the time, I’ll admit, I thought perhaps it was time for us to look towards a fresh future seeing as it’d been a whole FIVE YEARS since the team had made the finals and a change was needed.

There are many things I would today love to be able to tell Pa what he was right about when it came to the Tigers, but I never got the chance after his sudden death on ANZAC Day this year. Truth be told, he definitely knew he was right and I was wrong anyway.

In fact it didn’t take long for the club to realise their mistake as well. Jason Taylor was sacked merely weeks into the following season. Robbie Farah eventually brought back into team. But the damage had been done. The foundations of the club had been shattered.

Listen to the WestsLife Podcast Q&A with Shawn Blore on Spotify here or on Apple Podcasts here.

Despite the finals drought already being five years into the now decade-long length it is now, you can easily pinpoint that as the moment that made the franchise spiral into the basketcase that it is right now.

Now my Pa was pissed off over Farah’s dumping mainly because of the former Kangaroo’s playing ability alone. But what went down the Concord Oval toilets was something that the always underdog Wests Tigers had engrained during the Robbie era; loyalty.

In 2005, Wests Tigers won the premiership and it was fuelled mostly by camaraderie. They had no Origin players. They had no established superstars. They didn’t even have the entire salary cap spent. But what Tim Sheens had put together was a bunch of promising young kids like Farah, Benji Marshall and Anthony Laffranchi, mixed with some old pre-merger club stalwarts like John Skandalis and Mark O’Neil and some players thrown on the scrapheap by other clubs like Brett Hodgson and Scott Prince. It became the perfect mix purely because of one thing, the players played for each other. To this day that squad still refer to one another as brothers and you only need to watch a few minutes of highlights from that season to recognise that. The 2010, 2011 teams were much the same. Again, a well oiled machine built around Farah and Marshall.

Unlike the Sydney Roosters or South Sydney Rabbitohs today or in previous era’s the juggernaut teams Manly Sea Eagles and Brisbane Broncos, the Wests Tigers don’t have the luxury of making marquee player signings. Much like the Penrith Panthers have now done successfully, the only road to success for them has to be through nurturing young talent. They’re still one of the best at it, you only have to see the ‘former Wests Tigers’ teamlists media outlets put out every two weeks when it’s a slow news day to see how many of the game’s best players they’ve produced. But the issue is retaining them.

That list of lost talent is long but the top of the pile is James Tedesco. It’s hard to argue with the excuse for him leaving being Nick Politis throwing paperbags of cash, rent free beachside mansions and luxury cars and other outside the salary cap perks at the Camden Rams junior. But Tedesco backflipped on a big money offer deal with the Canberra Raiders back in 2014 to stay at Wests Tigers. That change of decision by Teddy was down to one man pretty much, Robbie Farah. When Farah was sent packing by Taylor, Tedesco (and Mitchell Moses and Aaron Woods) said see you later as well. Why show loyalty to a club that would not be loyal to its most loyal servant?

It has to be more than a coincidence. Despite the Alan Border-like captain grumpy persona he was painted out to be, the fact was players wanted to play with Robbie and Robbie had no desire to play for anyone other than the Tigers. It was the perfect combination. It’s something we’ve been missing for years.

Bringing Robbie Farah back into the club, this time in the training staff, was a good move my coach Michael Maguire. But as good as it is having him in a blue shirt, what the team needs is their next Robbie Farah out there in the trenches. Unfortunately it’s a little late for the 37 year-old to make comeback again. But I’m sure it’s crossed his mind in the last few weeks.

So looking at our current playing group, is there a player in this squad that you could ever picture getting ‘Wests Tigers’ tattooed on their bicep? Is there a player in this squad that would look at home sitting on the Leichhardt Oval scoreboard drinking a beer and drawn to tears thinking how much they’ll miss playing there? Is there a player in this squad that would live, breathe, bleed, sweat, fight, yell, scream for the Wests Tigers just like Robbie Farah did 277 times? The jury is out.

You could make a case for fellow Lebanese-Australian and also good friend of Farah, Adam Doueihi. When the Wests Tigers beat the Penrith Panthers at Leichhardt Oval four games ago, he was fist pumping to the crowd and you could see his love, desire and passion for the jersey he was wearing. If you squinted a little, it was like looking at a fresh faced Robbie Farah (and they do kinda look alike to be fair). In this writer’s opinion, it should be AD’s team and built around him from the ground up going forward.

If any the current squad read this (hey, you never know), please know that this passion that Adam showed that evening is what us fans notice the most. It’s not the stats or the Supercoach points. It’s even a little more important than winning or losing. We want to see guys out there and playing with desire. You can tell the media, write on Twitter or shout it from the rooftop that you’re trying your damn hardest. But you’re not going to convince a single one of us that it’s the case right now.

Is it too much to ask you as professional athletes to just try harder? Losing on the scoreboard ruins our Mondays, but we get over it. If we had exited through the gates of Leichhardt Oval, or Campbelltown Stadium, or Bankwest Stadium or Tamworth (or any goddamn football ground on the planet we follow you blokes to week in, week out) having witnessed the 17 men wearing the same colours as us out there put their heart and soul into the game, you can bank on us coming back next Friday, Saturday or Sunday. And the week after that. And the season after that.

But the current attitude being showed by the playing group is turning away even the most loyal of Wests Tigers fans right now. If you purely don’t care that it’s happening on your watch, then go ahead and try and make one of those ‘former Wests Tigers’ listicles then and leave.

Or you can turn up and perform not only for your next contract or for a highlight feature on Instagram, but for those of us who shape their entire life around the club you’re representing.

You can become more than just a former player. You can become a club legend.

Become our next Robbie Farah. Please.



Why a positive Wests Tigers future is seen in a Magpies jersey

As the halfway point of the 2021 NRL season approaches, the Wests Tigers NRL team has just three wins on the board. Meanwhile, their Knock On Effect NSW Cup team, currently known under the Wests Magpies side of the joint venture, is second behind the Penrith Panthers.

The Maggies have won eight straight and now sit four points clear of the Parramatta Eels and five clear of the fourth placed North Sydney Bears, whom are the Sydney Roosters reserve grade side. Now if you had’ve noticed, the three teams around them on the table are part of three of the current four best NRL sides in Sydney.

Often a good NRL side has a flow on effect into having a strong seconds side. Good teams are deep with talent, competing for first grade nods is harder and sometimes just good vibes can flow through a club as well creating success. So why are these Magpies an anomaly right now?

Arguably, the most correct answer to that question is that the Magpies are a parliament of the best young talent on the verge of NRL stardom in the competition. In the round 11 win over the Canberra Raiders, here is a list of players whom have made their NRL debuts and their age:

  • Zac Cini (21)
  • Reece Hoffman (20)
  • Jock Madden (21)
  • Jake Simpkin (19)
  • Stefano Utoikamanu (21)
  • Shawn Blore (20)

Then there’s other young talent yet to play first grade but very likely will by the end of the 2021 or 2022 season:

  • Allan Fitzgibbon (age not listed)
  • Kiah Cooper (23)
  • Tom Amone (24)
  • Kelma Tuilagi (22)
  • Tukimihia Simpkins (19)

Listen to the WestsLife Podcast Q&A with Shawn Blore on Spotify here or on Apple Podcasts here.

The WestsLife Podcast crew spoke to Wests Tigers Michael Maguire after the game at Lidcombe Oval on Saturday and you could hear not only how frustrated he was with the first grade team’s close loss to the New Zealand Warriors, but also the excitement about the amount of young talent he’s amassing at the club.

The WestsLife team (Rob Bechara, Shayne Calder and Josh Barnett) chewing Madge’s ear off at Lidcombe Oval. He was so open and honest with his answers and left us having zero doubt that he’s the man to lead our beloved Wests Tigers to success.

It’s hard for fans to be positive about the direction of Wests Tigers right now. It’s also somewhat understandable that fans without a close ear to the ground would buy into some media clickbait articles and social media posts about Madge being under pressure to keep his job. But the fact is firing yet another coach who’s only just laying the foundations for a successful future is downright dumb.

If you look beyond the scoreboard in Wests Tigers games in 2021, you can see our best performers consistently are some of Madge’s recruits namely Daine Laurie, Adam Doueihi and Luciano Leilua. They themselves are just 20, 23 and 24 years old themselves respectively.

Of course you can’t expect too much success packing an NRL squad full of inexperienced kids (though the Penrith Panthers are showing it’s not such a bad idea), but additions to the roster for established talent is incoming as the team’s salary cap giving us plenty of room to spend. You just have to see the ingredients chef Maguire is preparing.

It’s hard to be patient when you hold the longest finals drought in the league, but I highly recommend the Wests Tigers faithful get down to Lidcombe Oval in the coming weeks and see these fresh organically growing juniors in person (it’s also super easy to get up close and meet them too).

Beyond that, it’s a sensational cheap day out (free entry if you’re a Wests Tigers member) to enjoy some local rugby league with the Ron Massey and Jersey Flegg sides playing on the same day. It’s also nice to be cheering on a team who’s likely to win.

Pack a picnic rug, some camping chairs and some snacks when you head to the historic oval. But also pack a notebook and pen, as you should note down the names of the kids who impress you on the day. It’ll be proof in the not-too-distant future that you saw the stars of the finals-bound Wests Tigers squad before 99% of the other fans of our beloved club did.

Or just take our word for it.

Listen to the Westslife Podcast on Apple and Spotify with weekly reviews and previews of every game of the Wests Tigers season as well as interviews with players both past and current.


Blore itching to get back and ‘just drill someone’

After suffering a broken wrist in a pre-season incident, ruling him out for the start of the Wests Tigers season, Shawn Blore tells WestsLife he’s excited to get back on the field and put a big hit on.

Blore was originally told he could miss up to the first 10 rounds of the season, but rehab has gone so well he’s looking at returning much earlier and he’s not going to just ease back into the game either.

I’m pushing for round seven possibly,” said on the WestsLife podcast.

“I told everyone my first involvement back will be just drilling someone. 

“It’s just been so long and it gets to the point where it’s frustrating You just want to do something. I’m just hoping the first involvement is a good one. If we’re on attack, get in early and tuck the ball under my arm and just run.”

Download the latest episode of the WestsLife Podcast featuring the Q&A with Shawn Blore on Spotify here or on Apple Podcasts here.

Other than putting on big hits on opposition players, Blore is also keen to start forming combinations with teammates including fellow Panthers junior, Daine Laurie.

“We had such a great preseason and I was building such good combos with a few boys on the edge,” Blore said.

“I’m just so excited to get back into training and do some of that stuff on the field. It’s gonna take a while.

“The focus is just to get back foremost and just start drilling some people.”


James Tamou: Wests Tigers talent at same level as Penrith Panthers

James Tamou has already been so extremely impressed with his new squad, he’s comparing them to the young team he led to the NRL Grand Final just a few months ago.

The young playing group at the foot of the mountains is as good as any in the league, but Tamou has seen enough that Wests Tigers can match it with them in the future.

“It’s a young group,” Tamou told media on Tuesday. “The similarities between here and Penrith are of the same talent pool. I’ve said that many times.

“Penrith have had that talent pool for a while, it’s just about putting it all there on one page and doing good things with it.

“I am pretty confident in this special group that we’ve got. But like I said it’s not really known until we get tested on Sunday.”

Tamou also gave the highest of praises and a significant comparison to young hooker, Jacob Liddle.

“I felt (in the Manly trial) he was very quick out of dummy half,” Tamou said.
“If we’re able to get a roll on, he’s able to get out. He can create opportunities there. He’s a bit like Api Koroisau.

“Obviously the hooker comes into the game now it’s quicker around the ruck.”

“I definitely think he’s more than capable and can take a hit. That’s probably one of the most pleasing things to see, you want someone to line up beside you and they do their job.”

The Wests Tigers open their season against the Canberra Raiders at 4:05pm, Sunday.

Listen to our latest podcast where we preview the match as well as make predictions. Download on Spotify here. Download on Apple Podcasts here.


Why it’s an exciting fresh start for Wests Tigers in 2021

It’s been a long 10 year wait, but previous seasons mean nothing. Every season sees every team back to zero. Here is why Wests Tigers are top eight bound in 2021.

Wests Tigers announced on Friday, February 12th that new Penrith Panthers recruit James Tamou will be the captain of the side in 2021. On paper or to an outsider, that probably is a shock. But to those within the club, or those who follow the club’s every word intensely (we are the latter), it was very predictable. Jimmy lead the Penrith Panthers to a minor premiership and grand final while in 2015 he scored a try in the North Queensland Cowboys’ only grand final win. Throw in 12 tests and 14 Origins, he knows what it’s like on the big stage. He knows what winning culture and elite teams look like. The captaincy is among several changes that coach Michael Maguire has made this summer. Unlike in previous years and with previous coaches, player recruitment has been well calculated and the spending on salaries much more cautious. There hasn’t been a superstar signed, but there hasn’t been superstar coin added to the salary cap. Former Origin star James Roberts is on close to minimum wage. Joe Ofahengaue has his contract topped up by his former club the Brisbane Broncos. Former Penrith Panthers captain James Tamou is on just $400,000 (that’s not a lot for a starting front row forward, if you didn’t know).Young gun Stefano Utoikamanu is on decent coin for an inexperienced player, but if he lives up to his hype he will be more than worth every dollar. Many Wests Tigers fans felt like the signings lacked a marquee signing. While that’s somewhat true, our current cap situation means that it’s probably not going to happen until the 2022 and 2023 seasons when our highest paid players are coming off contract. In terms of the outs, the 2021 season will be the first since 2006 without veteran Chris Lawrence. Benji Marshall was offered an off the field role but declined and has signed with Souths. Josh Reynolds has gone to the UK Super League as has Elijah Taylor. Chris McQueen and Matt Eisenhuth are also on the list of players whom have not only been released, they’re all closer to the end of their careers than they are to the start. Tamou is the only player signed that was born in the 80s. Our squad’s average age has dropped significantly. The joke about the Wests Tigers being the superannuation club is coming to an end.

The signings that are coming in all have either speed, size and power. The forwards incoming like Joe Ofahengaue, Tukimihia Simpkins, James Tamou and Stefano Utoikamanu are exactly what the doctor ordered. In recent seasons, our team just seemed to lack that momentum and consistency in the forwards that the top teams have. While one of our best forwards in Josh Aloiai did a runner to the Northern Beaches, Tamou, Ofahengaue and Utoikamanu all have one thing in common: they’re all post contact machines. Also don’t underestimate how much we missed Zane Musgrove in 2020 as well. Injury meant he only played six games and he was impressive in almost all of them. There’s also our guy Shawn Blore who’ll be better for his first offseason as an NRL player. We got a good taste of what he can do in his rookie year and apparently he’s been training the house down. Expect more of Blore flooring blokes in 2021.

We here at WestsLife have been one of the shrinking number of people on Luke Brooks island and maintained that the kid (wait, he’s 26 already!) needs a forward pack around him to work with. We stand by that. But with the big boppas in front of him now, this is his time to shine. Halves partners, be it Adam Doueihi or Jock Madden, should suit him well. It’s a popular opinion that he goes missing when he’s paired up with a game dominator like Benji Marshall. Well the king has become a peasant of Redfern now. Brooksy, this is your team now. Prove us right (we’re due to be). The aspirations for even the most one-eyed Wests Tigers fans this season is eighth place. We’re desperate for it. Experts are saying it’s impossible. The memes about our beloved club are endless. But 2012 to 2020 are run and won. 2021 is a new year and we’ve got a premiership winning coach with a premiership experienced captain. It just smells a little different around Concord this year. Here’s hoping that’s a waft of finals footy in the air. Bring. It. On.

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Opinion: Is Madge cooling off?

Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire was on the chopping block as the club finished another poor season in 2022, finishing 13th with just eight wins out of 24 games. Across his career, Madge has built a reputation for being a hard taskmaster to the point it got him moved on from the South Sydney Rabbitohs just a few seasons after he led them to a premiership.  His style of coaching hasn’t been embraced by everyone at his current club either. It’s well reported that club legend Benji Marshall didn’t take kindly to his halves rotations in 2020 nor did then teammate Josh Reynolds while Russell Packer barely wore a pair of footy boots that year. Heading into the 2022 season, it’s pretty obvious from the outside looking in that the drill sergeant regime is being wound back and Maguire is trying an approach more about concentrating on the bonding and relationships amongst the playing group. Very similar to that of which Tim Sheens did with the club back when the Wests Tigers won their only premiership in 2005 who just happens to be back at Concord now. It could well be the main reason for this. Rather than the usual sand dune sprints and military style training you see in summer from the Wests Tigers, the squad took a trip to Terrigal on the Central Coast and spent time, outside of training, lying on the beach and having a Lebanese barbecue cooked by Adam Doueihi and Alex Twal. Listen to our interview with Adam Doueihi on the WestsLife podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean. Now this week, the Wests Tigers sent the meme makers into overdrive by announcing not one, not two (you’ve heard this joke already I’m sure)…five captains for 2022. Adam Doueihi, Luke Brooks, Tyrone Peachey, Ken Maumalo and James Tamou. What was pretty well hidden among the outrage and headlines over this move is the fact that these players weren’t chosen by Madge, they were voted in by the playing group. Some may say Madge is letting the patients run the asylum, but it could also be the fact that the playing group now is almost entirely signed or re-signed under his tenure at the club. The playing group is now his. There should be no one left at the club who doesn’t want to play for him. So the trust has been built and solidified.  While we definitely didn’t predict a repeat of 2005 on our recent season prediction pod   (if you haven’t already, have a listen to it now on Apple, Spotify, Google Podcasts or Podbean now), perhaps Maguire guided by Tim Sheens can again bring something special out of a playing group written off as wooden spoon favourites. Though any NRL fan would admit seeing the NRL trophy being lifted by five players at once for the first time will be quite the sight to see.

Opinion: Is there a lack of rugby league talent, or just poor coaching?

I was watching Fox League and their panel of “experts” were discussing why Parramatta don’t have the roster to win the competition (their opinion, not mine). This got me thinking. If Parra don’t have a squad to win the title, what chance do the teams below them have, given Parra currently sit in FOURTH PLACE? The panel went further and agreed that if you want a real shot of premiership glory, you need a halfback like Nathan Cleary or Jarome Hughes.

We know that to build a team that competes with the best, you need a good spine. Obviously you need the talent and skill in all positions, but without a good spine and in particular a good halfback/general, it’s like having a car with no steering wheel.

In recent years many of the games greats have retired that filled some of these positions. Thurston, Cronk, Slater, Inglis, for our Wests Tigers it was Robbie Farah, and most recently Cameron Smith. All superstars.

The fullback stocks in 2021 have never been better. There are at least ten fullbacks that wouldn’t look out of place in a premiership winning team.

Other than Nathan Cleary, Jerome Hughes, and to a lesser degree premiership winners Adam Reynolds and maybe Daly Cherry-Evans, the top quality halfback stocks are thin.

Listen to our interview with Adam Doueihi on the WestsLife podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean.

The hooking stocks are even thinner in this author’s opinion. There is no standout hooker though there are some that have improved considerably. Most notably, the recently injured Reed Mahoney.

So the question beckons, why are there so few quality halfbacks and hookers or is this a blight on most coaches?

This can’t be said of the Melbourne Storm and of their spine. Over time, they’ve lost three of the greats in Slater, Cronk & Smith. The transition into the new era has barely been noticed and this Storm team and in fact may go down as the best ever Melbourne team should they take the title without another loss. A statement that would’ve been laughed at with the absence of the three greats I’ve mentioned. Papenhuyzen, Hynes, Hughes, Grant weren’t on the map three years ago and the new Smith had been biding his time for a while. Every player that enters the Storm system becomes a better player. The same could probably be said of the Sydney Roosters, but you couldn’t say that about many other clubs.

As a Wests Tigers fan, I’m not a fan of Ivan Cleary, mainly for the mess he left our club in. Though I am glad he righted a couple of wrongs in bringing back club legends Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah.

I digress. Admitedly, Cleary has done a fantastic job with the young Panthers team. The Penrith pathways were starting to bear fruit as he was returning, but it still takes good coaching to get such a young team to gel the way they have. Api Korisau was a key purchase and his Penrith form, particularly in 2020, was levels better than anything he’d shown in his time at Manly.

So Bellamy, Robinson and Cleary all seem to make their players better in their own unique ways.

Go to the bottom of the ladder and one questions the skills of Trent Barrett and Kevin Walters. Granted it’s their first year at their respective clubs.

There were always doubts about one of the Broncos favourite son’s in Walters prior to his arrival. He inherited a rabble from Seibold. Other than the improvement in Tyson Gamble, I don’t see any improvement in their players except for Payne Haas who would excel anywhere and has always been a shining light since he burst onto the scene.

Barrett has been a head coach at Manly previously and that quickly turned into a rabble. He had the Trbojovic brothers, Cherry Evans, a starting front row of Fonau-Blake, Korisau and Tapau. Solid back rowers in Joel Thompson and Curtis Sironen. No excuses. He failed. Hasler has a similar squad to what Barrett had. They’re flying. In Barrett’s time at Canterbury this year, the club has gone backwards. The Bulldogs were better under Dean Pay and last year’s roster was slightly worse than this one. Given his failure at Manly, will he succeed next year with all their purchases? They will improve and have some good moments but without a genuine halfback to allow the running game of Matt Burton to flourish, they won’t be as successful as some will expect.

Back to Parra. They have the team in my opinion to win a competition. Great forwards and forward depth. Good halves. And enough quality in the backs with the likes of Gutherson, Sivo, Blake and Ferguson. So what’s their problem? In my opinion, it’s their style against the better teams in the competition. They’re too conservative. They don’t offer much in the redzone and wait until a last tackle Moses kick. Parra are blessed with talented hard running forwards. All of whom have a great offload. They have the ability to play great footy, but only seem to do so against the lesser likes. Whilst coach Arthur has done a good job with them, he needs to release the shackles. I’d love to see more second phase football from them. If they don’t do that and chance their hand, in my opinion they won’t take the next step.

So what do other struggling clubs like my beloved Tigers and others do if there are only a handful of halfbacks or less capable of winning a title? These key playmakers will always be first priority to re-sign at their respective clubs. The answer is we need coaches to do a lot more work in developing players and spending less time being man managers.

I often see on TV or read in an article “we need to find a centre that understands defence” or “we need to find a general to direct us around the park”. If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be better if a coach taught that centre how to defend and position himself in defence better instead of buying a player? Or developing your halfback to guide your team around the park (like Sam Walker is being taught at the Roosters by his coach)?

It’s the coaches duty to teach players to become better. In fact it’s their duty. Today’s players have never been better athletically.

Buying a plethora of established talent to get success and then saying “oh what a great coach he is” isn’t great coaching. Yes, some recruitment is essential but please don’t make excuses like some journalists are saying Coach X hasn’t got the players. If a coach is a genuine coach, players will improve under his tutelage. If the players don’t, occasionally it’ll mean that player isn’t a first grader but mostly it’ll say that the coach can’t coach.

There’s plenty of conjecture that Michael Maguire isn’t getting improvement from his playing squad. However, I believe there are notable improvements to several of the Tigers squad. Daine Laurie, Luciano Leilua, Stefano Utoikamanu, Shawn Blore, Joe Ofahengaue, Jacob Liddle and Thomas Mikaele, have all improved. He’s also blooded other youngsters in first grade despite lower grade games being postponed and subsequently called off. It’s been somewhat forgotten how hard it is for young players to improve without any form of game time. The verdict on whether Maguire is the right man for the Tigers should be left for the end of 2022, as this will be a season where the Tigers are devoid of most of their salary cap problems. The first time in many years.

One thing I know for sure. If the Wests Tigers were sitting in fourth position like Parramatta are right now, there’d be no calls for his removal as coach like Brad Arthur is currently receiving.

Rugby League can be a cruel and fickle sport.

Opinion: Who is to blame for Wests Tigers missing on marque signings?

It was announced Sunday that Dale Finucane had signed with the Sharks. The Tigers miss another player, but I’m not too fussed as, in my personal opinion, he’s not a game breaker. To me, he’s just a solid player.

Most Melbourne forwards go downhill once they leave the Storm, as we have seen over the years. Names that come to mind are Adam Blair, Jordan McLean, Kevin Proctor & even Big Tino isn’t as destructive as he once was.

As I’ve long said on the WestsLife Podcast, CEO Justin Pascoe & Lee Hagipantelis need to go and I’ll explain why with their four botched attempts in the last eighteen months.

As a club, when chasing a player, we seem to chop and change our mind on that player and/or make a massive error and somehow the public tend to hear about it.

Firstly, Latrell Mitchell. We publicly paraded our offer like naive children thinking it was a done deal and over the line. After our 900k per year offer wasn’t met by the deadline, Hagipantelis withdrew our offer and then later on said publicly if Latrell decided he’s keen to join, we would be happy to talk again. So, withdraw the offer but we still want him?. Sorry, that’s not bright negotiating at all.

Listen to WestsLife Podcast interview with Wests Tigers fan favourite Adam Doueihi on the WestsLife podcast now on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or Podbean.

Secondly, Josh Addo-Carr. Josh declared from the time he left that he always wanted to come back and play for the Wests Tigers. He even signed a heads of agreement document to join us. But for an early release, the Melbourne Storm asked for a player in return. They asked for Nofalauma, but we said ‘no’. Then they asked for Talau and we again said ‘no’. Upon hearing that the club wouldn’t release an unestablished first grader in Talau, Josh was so offended that he told his manager, Mario Tartak, “I don’t want to go there anymore”. I know this as Mario told me this verbatim at the Manly trial at Leichhardt pre-season.

Thirdly, Tevita Pangai Jnr. Another debacle. We declared massive interest in this player only to get cold feet with Hagipantelis declaring on SEN radio with Andrew Voss that our club was no longer interested. Move forward a few days later, and we (just like we did previously) declared that we were back in the race and wanted him. What sort of amateurs are our hierarchy? No wonder he signed elsewhere despite us giving TPJ the largest offer by far!

Lastly, Dale Finucane. As I said earlier, I’m not too bothered losing him but there were definitely pros & cons for signing him. What I find damning of Hagipantelis and Pascoe in this particular situation, is most would say Finucane was the type of player that would be good for the culture of our club on and off the field. I can’t deny that part. So it was reported that six clubs offered Finucane a contract and the Wests Tigers only decided last week to make a play because we had missed out on TPJ. Finucane and TPJ are completely different types of players. Finucane is an established premiership player with a diligent work ethic. TPJ is an explosive forward with unlimited potential yet has a clear history of ill-discipline and limited success in his career. So are we looking for a specific type of forward? Obviously not! We haven’t got a clue and it appears that we have chased Finucane in a FACE SAVING ATTEMPT BY INEPT MANAGEMENT.

Though the results don’t show it, our potential success will have to come from within and the kids coming through. Hopefully Sheens & Kimmorley get our junior pathways going, particularly in the MacArthur area where South Sydney have already infiltrated due to our lack of action & foresight!

Madge is the man to lead us out of this as coach I’m convinced. Even if I don’t agree with some of his selections or tactical decisions occasionally.

Hagipantelis isn’t capable of being chairman, though I guess I’m happy for him to support the club as a major sponsor.

In my opinion, Pascoe is the biggest reason for our continuous failure and his inability to recognise what it takes to takes to put a squad together. He’s been at the helm since late 2015 and overseen a club that hasn’t seen finals under his tenure. So let’s look at some of his howlers:

He was too busy prioritising the signing of Moses Suli instead of locking in James Tedesco, then international Aaron Woods, Mitch Moses etc. The loss of Tedesco who is a once in a generation player is unforgivable. He slipped through our fingers because our CEO wasn’t ahead of the curve and didn’t seize the initiative to sign him well before his contract was up and took it for granted he’d stay at the Tigers because “he loves the club” as he told me in his office late the year prior to his departure.

He was part of board that paid 700k of 900k to have the then Origin Hooker Robbie Farah to play for Souths Sydney. The heart and soul of our club. The local junior that won a premiership, captained his club with distinction, represented his beloved NSW, Australia & Lebanon. This set the worst precedent for our club and one we have struggled with since. Furthermore, it was simply bad business to pay South Sydney 700k per year for the then current State of Origin hooker to play elsewhere. Farah eventually returned to the Tigers and if not for a knee injury against Canterbury, I know we would’ve played finals in 2019.

We lost the now Australian winger Josh Addo-Carr over approximately 80k more that we wouldn’t pay. Instead preferring to keep the likes of Jordan Rankin instead.

He allowed Matt Ballin to be signed when both his knees were shot. He played two games in total. Ironically, Farah was let go because he was too old, but Ballin was older and as proven in his tenure, washed up as a player.

He let Taniella Paseka go to Manly when he was the only forward In U’20s worth keeping after a two try barnstorming game at Leichhardt the day our top grade played Melbourne.

He signed Josh Reynolds (when we had an interim coach) for just over $3m for four years when his body was past it for NRL level. Josh barely started a game in the first two years of his contract and we are still paying part of his salary whilst he’s playing in the English Super League.

He signed Mbye (as a fullback) even though Mbye had only played half a season as a fullback at Canterbury and he signed for approximately 800k per year for 3.5 years. Now, we are still trying to offload him and the Dragons are keen to have him on their books as soon as possible. However we will most likely be footing some of that bill for the next eighteen months no doubt.

Pascoe signed Chris McQueen for 3 years for 1.4m and barely started a first grade game. The NRL world knew his back was gone, but not our CEO?

He bought Ben Matulino from Warriors reserve grade on approximately 500k per year. Why so much for a player dumped to reserve grade?

He bought Russell Packer for 600k per year for 3 years. He’s barely been sighted for 2 years.

Between Reynolds, McQueen, Matulino & Packer, we’ve had at times $2.3million playing NSW Cup, not to mention the times Mbye was out injured in 2019. So over $3 million at times missing from top grade, yet somehow we had near misses on finals. Imagine how much talent we could’ve had with that extra money!

Hagipantelis hasn’t been chairman all that long, but so far he’s shown that as a negotiator, he doesn’t cut it.

Pascoe has been the CEO since late 2015, after our season ended on the field. He’s overseen unsuccessful finals campaigns from 2016-2020 and we must win five of our last six games or we will be facing a sixth straight season of not playing finals under his tenure and our tenth straight as a club.

How many failures does it take as a club for the CEO to be held accountable? Yes, we may be turning a small profit as a club, but if this man and his chairman can’t sell a vision of our club that makes players want to join us, then I’m afraid that they aren’t the men for the job. No matter how great their intentions may be, it’s time to go Pascoe and it’s time to stand down Hagipantelis.

Our fans deserve better.

Nofoaluma responds to critics of Wests Tigers teammate Luke Brooks

Wests Tigers winger David Nofoaluma is standing strong for his much criticised teammate, Luke Brooks.

Brooks had 17 runs for 87 metres, a line break assist, a try assist, four tackle breaks, nine kicks for 231 metres and kicked two from two conversions in the Tigers’ 30-12 loss to the Canberra Raiders on Sunday. But the 26-year-old has had a barrage of criticism by analysts and fans for his errors including a kick out on the full and then a kickoff also crossing the sideline.

Speaking to media on Wednesday, Brooks confirmed he had seen a lot of negativity written about him. His longtime teammate Nofoaluma saying there is a lot of aspects to his game that people overlook.

“There’s a lot of things that Brooksy does on and off the field that people don’t see,” Nofoaluma told the media. “That’s what makes him as a player why us as teammates have so much respect for him. That’s why he’s a part of our team.

Nofoaluma confirmed that comments online and in the media can result in struggles mentally .

Download the latest episode of the WestsLife Podcast on Spotify here or on Apple Podcasts here.

“People say a lot of things that effect you as a person,” Nofoaluma said. “I think for Brooksy, he knows…Madge has spoken to him about all he needs to be is himself.

“He doesn’t have to be the player that everyone speaks about, just focus on his own role. When he does that, it takes a lot of pressure off himself. I think he understands that.”

The Wests Tigers leading try scorer in 2020 also said the return of suspended fullback-turned-five eighth Adam Doueihi will help Brooks and the team.

“It’s awesome to have Adam back,” Nofoaluma said. “Adam is very demanding and Brooksy is very controlling.

“So both of them together is going to be something to watch.”

Wests Tigers matchup against James Tedesco, who played six seasons at the Wests Tigers, and the Sydney Roosters on Sunday at Campbelltown Stadium.