There are few sporting teams in the world with a history like the Wests Tigers, a joint venture that was formed by two struggling foundation clubs in the aftermath of the most tumultuous period in rugby league’s history.
You have one club with an injured player acting as a ball-boy.
Another where two players have to leave at halftime because one has arthritis and it’s getting cold. You have another where a player is foregoing bigger offers to stay with his club.
Which team will be playing finals footy?
Culture is a word that is bandied around a lot in the NRL. You need it, and a good one if you are going to be competitive. It’s something that isn’t all that easily defined but include things like integrity, accountability, consistency and the list goes on.
It is a word you associate with the likes of the Roosters and Storm – they have a great culture. Players are always at their best with the club, and once they leave often experience a lull.
It is about standards and expectation. In regards to Josh Reynolds and Russell Packer leaving the Tigers game early, it shouldn’t even be a story and wouldn’t be at another club. You should want to be there to support your teammates at a difficult time, it’s what you would want to do if you value the club and your teammates.
It’s a big story for the Tigers because it helps identify what Michael Maguire has been looking for and the issues he has.
As the head coach, and a premiership-winning one at that, his players need to be buying into his philosophies, not in the least because they haven’t been properly competitive for the best part of ten years.
To have players upset at being rotated in and out of the team, if you don’t like it, leave. You don’t have that luxury of being so good and winning all the time that you unconditionally get a spot in the team. Far from it.
It is a results-driven business and in the same way that if the team doesn’t perform Maguire will inevitably be shown the door, players should have the same amount of accountability.
Benji Marshall has been a champion player for a long time, but at 35 if Maguire doesn’t want him in the side each week or indeed moving forward, that is the nature of the beast.
How are you supposed to build a club around a player with only a year or two left? Add to that the partnership has been tried and failed. Marshall and Luke Brooks have had plenty of time in the halves and haven’t fired consistently.
The fact you have two of your best-paid players not even bothering to stick around would be startling for Maguire. It would be the same as if he had Adam Reynolds and Sam Burgess doing that when he was at the Rabbitohs.
Two experienced players who should be setting the right example but are doing the opposite, and an indication of why they haven’t been in the team much.
It is a sense of entitlement that Maguire is looking to strike out, it’s not that these are necessarily bad players or people, but the club is stale. He is facing a similar decision with Brooks, at what point is he just not going to cut it?
You see it with coaches coming in all the time, they need to move players out to make a statement. Ivan Cleary did it on his return to the Panthers. He oversaw the exit of Reagan Campbell-Gillard, Waqa Blake and Dallin Watene-Zelezniak.
In each case, players he brought into first grade. All are good players in their own right but were entitled at the Panthers. It was good for all involved – look where the Panthers are now.
Maguire knows what he is doing. He has won a premiership and is moving into a position where he can make big decisions around the roster. He has a long-term goal, and wants sustainable success and is making attempts to move those on who don’t align with his vision.
The sooner the likes of Packer and Reynolds go, the better.
The Tigers are said to be going after Josh Addo-Carr, and it is a good strategy. He is a competitor and comes from a winning structure. Making him fullback is a gamble, but this team needs an x-factor too.
The Tigers need a kill and to look as though they are moving forward. Bottom line is they would be getting one of the best wingers in the competition.
It is a long road for the Tigers, but Maguire is showing that he is going to put in the hard yards, do what he thinks is best by the team and not be dictated to by them.