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.

Published by Rob Bechara

Rob is a longtime passionate Wests Tigers fan who's become synonymous with his no holding back approach when he co-hosts on the WestsLife Podcast.

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

  1. Wow Rob you make a lot of noise about certain members of the club management but nothing about some crazy decisions made by idiot coaches and recruitment manages maybe their influence let us down and one coach who gave ultimatems to a couple of our top players at the time had some influence in the position we are now in as well as the influence of dopes on the board

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    1. Ha Ha, another arm chair critic that has no idea what went on behind the scenes and the instructions a coach was given to change the clubs culture by management.

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  2. Personally i wouldn’t have singed either player, they wanted to long a deals. There great players . Jnr is a hot head he will miss 4or5 games a year with suspicion. Ferno is great but too long a deal for that price. Im hopefull that we are going to sing somone good. Im happy about who we have bought this year, the pomy blokes look good. Just remember that we have the best front row in the game. But nobody now’s it yet . We will be ok guys just be positive. 🍻

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  3. Rugby league clubs should have technical directors like they do in European football. The Exec team should be structuring deal and a tech director and his team of scouts assemble the team in line with the head coach

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  4. The inability to manage the salary cap, and the lack of contingency planning point to a fundamental management issue. The result is that for every step forward the club takes, it takes two steps back. A quick look through the current roster confirms that we have a highly compensated reserve-graders, while internal inequities abound.

    On top of this we’ve had to say goodbye to quality players who wore our colours with pride, while the club pursues players it can’t afford. Worse still, we have a chairman with the ego of a mafia boss, and we can’t sack him. Meanwhile, our CEO changes the subject every time on field issues are raised. The centre of excellence is all he talks about and there is no wonder why.

    What’s the bet at the end of 2021 season we’ll hear how players ‘let the club down again’. In reality it’s the management who will have let the club down again.

    We keep following the same direction, season after season. Perhaps it’s time to face up to the reality that there are members of our current management team who are unsuitable for the job.

    Pascoe and Hagipantelis have to go…

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