If I was in a position to pick 17 Robbie Farahs in the Wests Tigers team on game day I would consider it.
Not because he would be a fast and elusive centre or a damaging prop forward. To be honest at 35 he’s not even up there with the best hookers in the competition anymore. The glory days are definitely behind him.
What you get with Robbie is a fierce competitive spirit and ‘win at all costs’ attitude that has accompanied his 300 club, 22 Origin and 13 Test (eight Australia and five Lebanon) matches.
Wests Tigers fans are a divided lot. By their very nature joint ventures are always going to have historic allegiances that are hard to shake off. Balmain and Western Suburbs fans are no exception. Finances, home grounds, training base and jersey colours are topics of passionate and relentless debate.
The fan divide around Robbie Farah as a player and a person is not based on foundation club grounds. Farah has always spoken of being a proud Balmain junior after playing for Leichhardt Wanderers and representing the district as a teenager.
His first junior club was the Enfield Federals that has been a part of both the Western Suburbs and Canterbury Bankstown junior competitions.
His love for Leichhardt Oval is unmatched, prompting him to spend his last moments in 2016 as a West Tiger sitting on the ground’s iconic old scoreboard.
The sour relationship Farah had with then Wests Tigers coach Jason Taylor and his subsequent departure to the Rabbitohs sent fans scrambling to take sides and lead to heated pro/anti Farah social media scuffles.
The Robbie Farah detractors will tell you he is selfish on the field, while his off field behaviour often provokes more words starting with the letter S.
Certain supporters see Farah’s behaviour after a losing game as sullen, sulky and sooky. He is an individual that wears his heart on his sleeve and doesn’t hide hurt and disappointment.
Stories have been circulated that he will occasionally leave a dressing room and ground without stopping to talk to supporters or sign autographs. If this is true then the complaints are somewhat valid. Fan engagement is an important part of the role of a professional rugby league player.
To be fair there are plenty of photos and images of Robbie mixing happily with fans at games and club functions.
Having met the Tigers hooker a couple of times through work duties I found him to be friendly, polite and responsive while also quite reserved. The passion for his footy career is obvious.
His pride and passion as a player are what lead to the failing out with Jason Taylor being played out publicly. Plenty of players find themselves in the same situation at the back end of their career but for Robbie it became personal and it was poorly handled by Taylor and Wests Tigers staff.
In hindsight it would have been wiser for Farah not to mention JT and the reserve grade comment in the lead up to his 300th game against Newcastle on the weekend. It is obvious his pride has taken a beating.
By the same token Rod Reddy who was a member of Taylor’s staff, a great rugby league player of his era, and supposedly the man who told Farah he would be playing reserve grade if he continued at Wests Tigers should have left the issue alone and in the past.
Reddy was a tough player. Diplomacy and turning the other cheek are not his strongest assets.
By implying that Farah is still a reserve grader and that the Wests Tigers were in fact a reserve grade team bar four to five players Reddy came across as insulting and bitter in the lead up to the milestone match.
Words of praise for Robbie’s career from former greats Peter Sterling and Royce Simmons as well as Tiger teammates Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence restored the positive narrative around his milestone.
Current Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire, who after the previous round’s loss against the Raiders publicly slammed his team for their performance and made changes, asked Farah for an 80-minute effort against Newcastle, dropping his heir apparent Jacob Liddle off the bench.
Farah responded in typical style helping the team to a narrow victory, topping the tackle count with 53 and scoring one his trademark tries from dummy half.
Age and chronic back injury are quickly catching up with the veteran and it may be the perfect time at the end of this season to hang up the boots and hand the dummy half duties to the talented Liddle.
Liddle has been quietly developing his physical and mental resilience in the lower grades and coming off the bench in first grade.
A media conference has been set for this morning and Farah who won a premiership in 2005 is expected to announce his retirement.
It would be a perfect lead up to the game against the Cowboys at Leichhardt on Thursday night.
I want players that will give their utmost for my club. Sometimes that comes without a smile and a chat.