Journalistic bias is a terrible thing, so it’s lucky I’m not a journalist. (The three of you who’ve seen me represent The Roar on Sky News’s Sportsline this year will vouch for this.) I’ll just lay it on the table: I love the Wests Tigers. Here are 5 reasons why.
1. The left-edge attack. Jason Taylor did a brilliant analysis of the Tigers’ left-hand side attack in his must-read Friday column in the Sydney Morning Herald (must-read because it actually analyses the game!).
He noted that using the typical formation, Benji Marshall at second receiver has six attacking options: (1) pass short to Gareth Ellis running straight (or angling back to the posts, as per last week against Canberra), (2) pass out back to Chris Lawrence running one gap wider, (3) cut out Lawrence and hit Tuqiri directly, (4) kick to the corner for Lawrence and Tuqiri steaming through, (5) dummy and go himself or (6) pass back inside (perhaps flick pass) to the fullback running from the defenders’ blind spot. No wonder it is so hard to stop.
2. The creative coach – Phil Gould is on record saying the Tigers are his favourite team to watch. A gameplan featuring rapid ball movement from wing to wing, innovative scrum plays (again, per the Canberra game) and a competition-leading number of 50+ metre tries explains why.
Brilliant ballplayers like Farah help, but full credit must go to the coach.
Tim Sheens gives the impression he’s a genuine league aficionado – not just a student of the game, but a believer in its potential for artistry. Don’t forget this is the bloke who coached the Raiders to three premierships, including the scintillating 1994 win which featured a try copied directly from the Ella brothers themselves. (Aptly, the Ellas called the play “the Leaguie”.)
3. The hard-working pack – In Farah, Chris Heighington and Gareth Ellis, the Tigers have three of the hardest-working players in the competition and, in Ellis, the best buy of the past five years.
All 80-minute men, they routinely make their 30+ tackles and 10-15 runs. Galloway adds starch, while Payten and Gibbs do a lot of the tackling. Gibbs in fact has transformed himself from a one-man penalty machine into one of the best low tacklers in the NRL. Touch wood!
4. The magician at 6 – it’s no insight, but Benji Marshall is the most wonderful player to watch in the game.
With a creative, risk-embracing sensibility and a brilliant array of skills he is perhaps the most entertaining player of either code since Campese. Watch this if in any doubt.
5.The wins – having come to the Tigers via the Wests Magpies I got very used to losing.
Super League and Wests’ demise put me off League for a while but the 2005 Tigers brought me back with a vengeance. Not only were they breathtaking to watch, they won matches. In fact, they won the whole damn thing. And they’ve been contenders ever since. Let’s hope the 2010 side can win two more matches and underscore the brilliance of the era.