Friday’s loss to Gold Coast means the last-placed Wests Tigers now need to win all their remaining nine games to make the NRL finals.
After sitting through the pain of his side’s seventh consecutive NRL defeat, coach Ivan Cleary says Wests Tigers’ long rebuild hasn’t even begun.
With star James Tedesco nursing a sore ankle on the sidelines, the last-placed Tigers went toe-to-toe for 50 minutes with Gold Coast on Friday night before eventually falling 26-14 at Campbelltown.
The defeat leaves the bottom-placed Tigers needing to win their remaining nine games to be any chance of making the finals.
Cleary believed his side were in the hunt against the Titans but struggled to build pressure before being blown away by Jarryd Hayne.
The NSW Origin star scored two tries and set up a third in the space of 10 minutes to extend the Titans lead from two points to an unassailable 18.
“Tonight we’d actually earned opportunities and then we couldn’t capitalise through either not getting it right or not finishing the set off well,” Cleary said.
“When it backs on top of each other, mentally in the second half there was a real shift in the game – positive for the Titans. And Jarryd Hayne, he would’ve sensed that.
“He’s a class player and took that opportunity.”
Cleary, who has signed or re-signed at least nine players since his arrival mid-season, said the slab hadn’t even been laid on his challenging rebuild of the club.
For now, the focus is merely trying to instil some belief in a team devoid of it.
“There’s a lot of things that have changed really since I first got here. Without going into detail, in effect (the rebuild) hasn’t really started yet,” he said.
“We’re just trying to concentrate on the present.
“We’ve got a whole team of guys in there who are working really hard, are down on confidence and just trying to work on those little aspects of the game, learn the game.
“We’ll keep working hard, a few things will bounce our way and all of a sudden confidence kicks in and things can change. We’ll be back on the horse next week.”
Cleary also revealed Tedesco could also miss next week’s clash against Newcastle but he insists the injury the NSW fullback picked up in State of Origin II isn’t long-term.
“Good news is it’s not syndesmosis. It’s a lateral ligament, which blows up pretty radically. You can get over it reasonably quickly. Next week, I’m not sure,” he said.