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'Just go out every week and have a crack. That’s all we ask': What it’s like to be a Tigers fan

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Roar Guru
15th November, 2021
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This is Part 2 of my series speaking with fans from all NRL teams to see what it’s really like to support their team.

This week, the Wests Tigers. Two proud historic clubs forced to merge. An unforgettable grand final victory. They have produced so much talent that never seems to stay. That Benji Marshall flick pass.

The Wests Tigers are a club that have had their fair share of highs and lows. One of the NRL’s underdogs, the never-ending joke about coming ninth, and the team we all know can produce so much more.

Being a fan of the club seems to be an emotional rollercoaster.

I sat down with Josh and Paul to chat about their beloved team. And to keep it fair, I made sure I covered both sides of the merge. Josh is a Western Suburbs Magpie, and Paul is a Balmain Tiger.

“For me,” Paul began, “the best part about being a Wests Tigers fan is watching games at Leichhardt Oval. There is just something so special about that ground. Ten thousand fans can sound like 100,000 – the atmosphere is incredible.

Leichhardt

(Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

“The worst thing is watching them do the same things over and over again and expecting a different result. It’s extremely frustrating to see what this team is capable of and not understanding why they are so inconsistent. It’s been a long decade for us fans, that’s for sure.”

Josh added: “Our games going down to the wire is the best and worst part of being a Wests fan. It’s heart attack central watching our games sometimes.

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“When we win those close exciting games it’s awesome, but then absolute heartbreak when we lose the ones we should have won. The boys know how to get our blood pressure up!”

Coming from both sides of the fence, I asked their opinions on the merge.

“I still feel the merge was necessary,” Josh replied, “but I wish both sides of the board could put their differences aside for the benefit of the club.

“I also feel that the Tigers side seem to dominate in the decision making – just look at the jersey. I believe there has been huge potential, growth, opportunities and talent missed in the Macarthur area.”

Paul agreed with the still-evident divide.

“There are still fans with the ‘us versus them’ mentality which doesn’t help us move forward. I’m happy with the merge, but I’d be much happier if we were winning!”

Wests Tigers fan boos

(Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

I asked the guys who their favourite ever Wests Tigers players were, as well as right now.

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“That’s easy” replied Josh. “John Skandalis. ‘Skando’ was just an absolute gentleman on and off the field, so much passion for the game and proof that perseverance can match talent.

“Right now, it’s Adam Doueihi. I’m excited to see where his talent, commitment and leadership qualities will take the team to.”

For Paul, it was Gareth Ellis.

“He was an incredible player for us, and it was such a shame that we didn’t get to keep him for longer. Right now, it’s Daine Laurie for me. He’s the best player we have bought in years and has a huge future. Hopefully we can hold onto him.”

Paul’s last comment made a great segway to my next question – which player that has left the club hurt the most?

“Definitely (James) Tedesco,” Paul replies sadly. “Out of the countless players we’ve let go over the years, that one stung the most. It still does. But I doubt ‘Teddy’ would have reached the same heights he has if he had stayed with us.”

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For Josh, it was Ryan Papenhuyzen.

“His enthusiasm is infectious, smallest guy with the biggest heart, and he just oozes talent and class.”

I asked for their thoughts on Ivan Cleary but have had to leave their answers out. Those words cannot be published.

I can say that they are both are happy to have Michael Maguire remain as coach, as well as having Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall back at the club.

Benji Marshall

(Photo by Jenny Evans/Getty Images)

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“We have been through something like five coaches in ten years, and we are no better off. I think ‘Madge’ is the right coach to take us forward,” Paul said.

“Sheens will have a huge impact as well. I believe a lot of our problems come from our administration, so hopefully he can help in that area. And Benji is a club legend, he will be great for our club as an ambassador”.

Josh added: “Benji should never have been released. It’s going to be wonderful having him around the club again. Tim Sheens will also have a very positive impact. He can educate the guys on so much more than just football. He will build and grow our culture.

“And then hopefully they can just let Madge do his job and run and build a team we know he is capable of. And I’m so happy Nathan Cayless got the assistant’s role – I would have been crazy pissed off if Shane Flanagan had been picked to be a part of our club.”

Paul hates the fact that they play at three grounds. He feels it doesn’t help the team be unified or have their own identity.

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“I do not care which ground they pick, but they need to just pick one.”

Josh sees both sides.

“We are a merged club, and I fully appreciate that our games need to be split between venues. I also appreciate the financial decisions that were behind us playing at Homebush. But in saying that it would be so much better to have one neutral home ground that we can call our own”.

Josh really liked the Tales from Tigertown documentary, and thought it was great to get the behind-the-scenes look at the club.

“More clubs should do it. Their fans would love it.”

Paul wasn’t on board at first.

“I didn’t like the idea, but in the end, I did enjoy watching it. It was good to see the passion that Madge has for the club. I actually think the show is one of the reasons he kept his job.”

Tigers head coach Michael Maguire

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

I asked what they are both looking forward to next season.

“To be honest,” Paul started, “after years of getting my hopes up it’s hard to get excited. We haven’t bought many players. I am keen to see how Oliver Gildart goes. And I’m also excited about big Stefano (Utoikamanu). He’s a gun and I think he’ll have a big year.”

Josh added: “I’m looking forward to seeing Laurie linking with Doueihi, Jackson Hastings and Luke Brooks. I’m a fan of Brooks, I really hope stays and he can lead us around the park next year.

“I’m hoping our defence is not made up of play-doh again, we were so soft this season. And, just like Madge says, I want to see Wests Tigers always being in the fight.”

Finally, I asked if they could say anything to the team, what would it be.

Josh was straight to the point: “Turn up every week and show effort. Even if we are behind by 40, always keep trying.”

Paul’s line of thinking was the same.

“Just go out every week and have a crack. That’s all we ask. It’s so frustrating for us fans when it feels like the players aren’t as passionate about the club as we are. I think we would become so much more consistent if we can close the gap between our best and worst performance”.

After our chat, it seemed that even coming from different sides of the merge, in the end the guys just want the same things: unity, effort and a place to call home.

Oh, and to never see Ivan Cleary ever again.

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