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Can the Wests Tigers regroup?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - 11:00 AM
Source: SportsFan
Author: Daniel Ramus

On the surface, the Tigers appear to be a divided club.

Popular and loyal players Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan both left for Cronulla in controversial circumstances.

Their departures particularly upset superstar playmaker Benji Marshall but also caused unrest among the other players.

The rumour mill was in overdrive that Marshall and captain Robbie Farah weren't seeing eye to eye with coach Tim Sheens, which led to his removal as head coach.

The futures of both Marshall and Farah, who are to the Tigers what Shane Warne and Glenn McGrath were to the Australian Test cricket team, have also been the subject of conjecture.

Marshall was linked to a move to Japanese rugby, while Farah has been linked to Parramatta.

And there were even suggestions, which were denied, during the 2012 season that Farah and Marshall had fallen out themselves.

After reading all that, you would think the Tigers are in for a long year in 2013.

However, it's not all doom and gloom and there are reasons Wests supporters can be optimistic as we gear up for the season ahead.

Firstly, there is no question the Tigers needed a new coaching voice, and they will have one in Mick Potter, who joins the club from the Bradford Bulls in the English Super League.

Even though Sheens produced one of the greatest coaching achievements in the game's history by guiding the Tigers, who in 2005 weren't regarded as a premiership contender, to the title that year, his time at the club wasn't a raging success by any stretch of the imagination.

In his 10 seasons from 2003-2012, Wests only reached the finals on three occasions.

The 2005 premiership was only going to keep Sheens in his job for so long – and in the end it kept him in it for too long. His credit points finally ran out with the Tigers at the end of 2012.

One of the main problems Wests had in recent seasons under Sheens was their defence.

Defence is attitude. Given the Tigers have been poor in that area of their game, it would be fair to assume their minds haven't been completely on the job.

Potter's hard-nosed approach could be just what the Tigers need to turn their fortunes around. Wests have excelled when they've been frontrunners, when the bounce of the ball has gone their way and when they enjoyed the bulk of possession.

The best sides like Melbourne, Canterbury and Manly accept there will be periods in games where momentum is against them for whatever reason, and they deal with it, and still come out on top. The Tigers haven't done that recently.

When the rub of the green has been against them and they've been starved of possession, they've dropped their heads.

However, Potter, who played for the Bulldogs in the 1980s (winning premierships in '84 and '85) – one of the most mentally tough and best defensive teams in the history of the game – will no doubt address these issues in the pre-season and we may well see a transformed football team.

Joining them will be Braith Anasta from the Roosters. Anasta debuted in first grade 13 years ago, played in a premiership with the Dogs in 2004 and has represented both NSW and Australia.

For the Tigers to add a player of Anasta's experience and quality to their roster is a huge plus. He will take pressure off Marshall and Farah, and the big two could well become the big three.

If Potter can add a steel to the Tigers' defence and improve their mental toughness, and also get Marshall back into his best form and firing on all cylinders, there is no reason Wests can't challenge for the title.

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of BigPond Sport.

Follow BigPond Sport on Twitter: @bigpondsport


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