Worrying Signs for Wests Tigers

 

Trial results aren’t always an ideal gauge as to how an NRL team will perform and for the year ahead Tim Sheens and his coaching staff must have some concerns after some major defensive leaks by the Tigers at various stages against the Gold Coast Titans last night and more worries around Benji Marshall’s defensive techniques.

 

 The Wests Tigers started very positively and looked spritely in attack early on, but as the game wore on against the Titans, their defensive line especially around the ruck was the worst I have seen from them in some time. The Tigers have always relied on smaller mobile forwards and usually have good foot speed around the ruck, but this was no where to be seen last night.Ok, so it is only early season and maybe their preparation isn’t as far along as other NRL sides – but the way the Gold Coast cut the Tigers up would concern any Wests fans in my eyes. The Titans did enjoy a better percentage of possession and this worked against the Tigers, but their fitness certainly looked below par – at various stages Robbie Farah was taking 2 tackles to reach the dummy half position and only Keith Galloway could manage any forward runs that produced meters for his team.In my eyes, the addition of Corey Payne and Matt Head can’t come soon enough. Firstly, the Tigers are in dire need of muscle in the forwards, even more so now that Ryan O’Hara and Todd Payten are unavailable for the first part of the NRL 2008 season and slotting Matt Head into halfback will take pressure of Benji in attack and provide a more natural no.7 solution than the workhorse John Morris. On another positive note, new winger Nick Youngquest was a strong performer on the fringes for the Tigers – running the ball strongly, regularly assisting centre field and looking extremely fast when in space.Current half John Morris is no doubt a tireless worker and a useful player, but certainly not a natural halfback. When Head is available for selection, the potential combination of Robbie Farah and John Morris at his original hooking position looks to be a juicy partnership that could be a major drawcard for the Tigers.

This is all well and good for strong attacking options, something the Tigers usually have no problems with – as they are known for their unstoppable attacking prowess. But it’s defence where the real black hole remains. Unlike last year where Benji Marshall defended on the wing, last night Tim Sheens had him defending as 2nd man in from the left edge, just outside Chris Lawrence who was obviously instructed to assist and protect Marshall where possible– but this failed to stop traffic coming his way or getting past. The additional risk here is burning fuel in the Chris Lawrence tank and reducing his attacking capability. Lawrence was a standout for the Tigers last night, looking big and fit – regularly proving a handful for the Gold Coast defenders.

While you expect opponents to bomb the likes of Marshall on the edge, or run big men directly at him – it was the one on one failures that raised real concerns. Several times, Benji looked to have his opposite man covered and was left clutching air less than 10m out from his own try line and all this from a Titans backline that was virtually of a reserve grade standard as Chris Walker, Preston Campbell, Matt Petersen and Brett Delaney were all not playing for the Gold Coast last night.

Where does all this leave the Tigers?

It certainly makes the Top 8 look like a big ask for the side this year. They have recruited smartly for NRL 2008 and they have a strong tactical coach in Tim Sheens, but how on earth do they hide or protect Benji in the defence line any more than they already do?

They have worked hard to increase forward bulk, with Corey Payne added to the likes of Todd Payten and Ryan O’Hara for this Rugby League season but injuries have put paid to that plan at present and the smaller mobile forwards in Bryce Gibbs and Bronson Harrison remain holding the fort.

While all this will concern any Tigers fan and their coaching staff, the only positive to take away is that maybe it’s a good thing that all the problems were evident in this early preseason trial period where NRL results aren’t on offer. Copping a hiding might just be the best medicine for the Wests Tigers and give them more focus at training before the NRL Premiership kicks off for 2008 in around 2 weeks time.

      

One thought on “Worrying Signs for Wests Tigers”

  1. I think the tigers club is making a huge mistake letting Brett Hodson go.What a shame they couldn’t show him the same loyalty that he’s given the club . I for one would like to say a huge THANK YOU to Bretty, wish him all the best and let him know that Tiger fans will miss him!!!

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