THE Wests Tigers bus might take a little longer to get cranking because the problems at the club run far deeper than the bottom-placed NRL team.
Just hours before the Tigers’ heartbreaking loss against Cronulla on Saturday night, the Holden Cup team was embarrassed 84-6 by the red-hot young Sharks.
The NSW Cup team was also blasted off the park to remain last in that competition.
Across three grades, the Tigers now have an astonishing points difference of minus 662.
Coach Ivan Cleary walked into the middle of the James Tedesco and Aaron Woods signing soap opera, but quickly splurged on talent for next season, including Josh Reynolds, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer and Chris McQueen.
The real concern is the form of the club’s Generation Next. The Holden Cup team, in particular, and NSW Cup side are giving fans little reason to believe.
Tigers football manager Kelly Egan said: “We’re pushing forward pretty well at the top end of town, we just need to make sure we’ve got our ducks in a row at the base.”
Egan did not make any excuses for the Holden Cup blowout, but pointed out there had been plenty of injuries — and several long-term ones — across the lower grades.
“There’s an expectation at this club where it doesn’t matter who you have on the field, you want a level of competitiveness that far outweighs what was tossed up on the weekend,’’ Egan said.
“Those young guys were certainly super hurt by what happened, and we’ve gone out of our way to make sure the coach is supported and the players supported.
“It’s as much about attitude and respect as it is about winning games, and we weren’t doing either on the weekend.
“But we’re missing about eight players on average every week in the 20s, and most of those players were key signings. We’ve already used 33 players this season.
“We’ve also had eight or nine players come up from last year’s 20s, and only two of them have played more than five games.’’
Egan said the Sharks’ Holden Cup team could rack up big scorelines, including a 74-12 win against the Raiders in Canberra in round two.
There was also the issue of players being forced to play out of position to cover for the injured brigade.
The lack of players putting their hand up for an NRL start has made it difficult for someone like 18-year-old centre Moses Suli to be given a break.
First grade football often takes a physical and mental toll on rookies around this time of year.
As the Tigers put the brakes on recruitment, they will wait for rival clubs to shed players should they be over the proposed salary cap.
|HOLDEN CUP (15th)||14||3||1||10||-300||9|
|NSW CUP (12th)||15||3||0||11||-196||8|
TIGERS DESPERATE TO AVOID UNWANTED HISTORY
By Matt Logue
WESTS and Balmain have combined for 21 wooden spoons but as a joint-venture the Wests Tigers are yet to collect league’s most unwanted prize.
This could change in 2017 with the Tigers in last position after 15 rounds of the NRL season.
Saturday’s last-minute loss to Cronulla has relegated Ivan Cleary’s men below back-to-back wooden spooners Newcastle on the standings.
Talk to the current crop of players and the wooden spoon is a piece of history they are determined to avoid at all costs.
“We don’t want to be the first (Tigers team) to get a wooden,” back-rower Sauaso Sue told The Daily Telegraph.
“We just need to get off the bottom of the ladder — it’s pretty disappointing being there.
“Hopefully we can get a win this weekend and get off the bottom.”
In a season plagued by a sacked coach and departing stars, the Tigers have struggled to produce their best.
For all the drama, the joint-venture side has turned up most weeks with energy and effort.
This was certainly on display in their heartbreaking two-point loss to Cronulla on Saturday night.
As Sue knows, though, desire hasn’t been the Tigers’ problem this season.
“We keep falling short (in games) and we need to gel together for 80 minutes,” he said.
“The effort is there, but we just need to play for the entire game.
“I think missing Teddy (Tedesco) and Woods made it tougher. We were without a few leaders and we just couldn’t capitalise against the Sharks.
“We had a lack of leadership there, from myself as well, so that’s a big thing for us going forward.
“Now we have to get over last week as fast as we can.”
For Sue, Friday night’s clash against the Gold Coast at Campbelltown Stadium can’t come quick enough.
The Samoan international says it’s paramount the Tigers come out firing against the Titans in a bid to revive their substandard season to date.
“I’m pumped — it’s a massive game for us,” he said.
“No game is easy and versing the Titans at full strength is pretty hard, so hopefully our Origin boys back up as well.”
Meanwhile, Sue hopes back-rower Matt Eisenhuth plays again this week after impressing in his club debut against Cronulla on Saturday.
“It is always good seeing young guys debut, especially Matty,” he said about Eisenhuth, who returned to the field three years after it was discovered he had a bone tumour in his lower leg.
“He is such a good bloke off the field and it was so good for him to get some game time.
“Hopefully we see him play a few more games this season.”