We Wests Tigers fans can be a bitter and vindictive lot. Our emotions have been fueled by perceived mismanagement by officials, exiting juniors and, for the most part, less-than-desirable on-field results in the short life of the club.
When Mitchell Moses sought and was eventually given a release to join the Parramatta Eels in 2017, on the back of fellow Wests Tigers juniors Aaron Woods and James Tedesco indicating they were out the door, it felt like the sky was falling in.
Coach Ivan Cleary indicated that Moses’ performances and demeanour at training were not of the standard required at NRL level in the lead-up to the club granting a release.
Moses’ uncle and manager Isaac Moses complained to the NRL and Rugby League Players Association, expressing concerns about player welfare. They were dark days for the club and supporters alike.
Wests Tigers fans pointed out Mitchell’s inconsistency, occasional brain snaps and tendency to get caught up in the emotional side of the game as reasons why he would never reach his potential at the Eels.
Post-match interviews after victories – where he appeared to be sticking his finger up at as his former club by referring to now playing behind a strong forward pack – didn’t help to quell the emotions felt by Tigers fans. He was perceived as petulant and arrogant by his detractors.
From the day Moses led Balmain to their first under-18s SG Ball premiership in 30 years after carving up a Canberra Raiders side that boasted a young Anthony Milford, it was obvious that he was destined for a first-grade career.
He was a precocious talent seemingly able to spark attack at will. His defence needed work but that’s more often than not the case with young halves.
Significantly, fellow Tigers junior Luke Brooks was missing through injury in that grand final. Moses is clearly a better player when he is solely running the show. When Brooks and Moses played together in the halves at Wests Tigers, they both struggled to take control despite being good friends off the field and playing together in the junior ranks.
When Robbie Farah was forced from the Wests Tigers in 2016, there was talk that Moses was not happy with the service he was receiving from the dummy-half.
The flashes of brilliance and inconsistent performances continued at Parramatta despite finishing fourth in 2017. Last year they took out the wooden spoon, culminating in Moses being told he was welcome to look elsewhere at the end of the season.
In 2019, with former halves partner Corey Norman moving to the Dragons, Moses has emerged a more mature and patient footballer and Parramtta’s results bear witness to that. Assured of a finals spot and on track for a top-four position, it is Moses who is guiding them around the paddock.
The Eels halfback had a hand in all six of the tries in the 36-12 victory over the Titans. He leads the NRL for try assists (24), all kicks (291) and kick metres (8111).
Moses will turn 25 in September. He is older than hooker Reed Mahoney and five-eighth Dylan Brown, while the same age as Clint Gutherson.
He is the dominant player in the spine.
It is his show now.
Once a target for big hard-running back-rowers, his defence has improved noticeably over the last 12 months.
The patience, skill and a level head to compete at the top level are not always apparent in a 20-year-old player.
NSW playmaker Cody Walker made his NRL debut for the Rabbitohs at age 26. Billy Walters – who is likely to announce he has signed for the Wests Tigers in 2020 – played his first NRL game for the Melbourne Storm recently at the age of 25.
Moses has grown and developed over the last five years under the glare of the NRL spotlight.
Coach Brad Arthur described Moses as “composed and doing what’s best for the team” in the press conference on the weekend.
“He’s not trying to force his hand. He’s just doing what’s best for the team and that composure filters through the side,” Arthur said.
Arthur revealed on NRL 360 last night that he had sat down and had a “real heart to heart honest conversation with Mitchell” at an earlier stage.
Moses – who has already represented Lebanon – has an opportunity to further his representative career if he continues with this current form and mindset.
With James Maloney heading to France in 2020 and Nathan Cleary and Mitchell Pearce sharing the NSW halfback spot this year, an Origin place is up for grabs and Moses just might be the right man to fill it.
Mitchell has come of age and it looks like his best footy is in front of him. Time heals most wounds. I sincerely hope he succeeds.