Staying focussed for 80 minutes is a priority for the Wests Tigers, says centre Blake Ayshford Credit: NRL Photos Copyright: NRL Photos
Wests Tigers centre Blake Ayshford says he and the rest of the team know that if they don't start playing for 80 minutes soon they can forget about achieving anything this season.
"We aren't putting it together for anything like 80 minutes," Ayshford said as the Tigers prepare for their crunch game against Brisbane at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday. "The coach [Mick Potter] has spoken to us about it every week.
"Since the start of the comp we've usually put in a good 40-to-60 minutes of football, but the bit left over has cost us dearly."
The Tigers have lost three games in a row, falling to a win-loss record of 2-4 in the process. They were cleaned up by the Sea Eagles in the first of those losses, but then they led before being run over by the Storm in the closing stages.
Against the Dragons, they fell 12 points behind before coming back in the second half to make a game of it.
"We were in the game for a long time against the Storm, but our last 20 minutes wasn't good," Ayshford said. "And the game against the Dragons was one of those strange ones where we could have won the game or been beaten by 20."
In the end, the Tigers were beaten by one point, after Dragons five-eighth Jamie Soward nailed a late field-goal to break a 12-12 deadlock.
It was the second time in recent years that a Soward field-goal had clinched a 13-12 win for the Dragons over the Tigers. The same result occurred in a grand final qualifier in 2010, when the Tigers and the Dragons, coached by Tim Sheens and Wayne Bennett respectively, were both travelling a lot better than they are now.
"I suppose it's a mental thing with us at the moment," Ayshford said. "We've been a little ill-disciplined at times, and we've been penalised a lot in the last couple of weeks. It's certainly not a fitness thing.
"There are a few new guys in the team, so we've had to get used to each other, and we've had a few injuries that have disrupted things, but it's mainly a mental thing to do with us not maintaining the concentration and discipline."
Potter is the coach with the responsibility of trying to get the Tigers to fire these days, but unfortunately for him and the team they are faced with the continuing challenge of playing without superstar Benji Marshall against the Broncos. Marshall, who missed the loss to the Dragons, has a toe injury.
"We have to get on with it without Benji," Ayshford said. "We can't just wait for him to come back, we have to put it behind us and rally behind the halves who are in the team this week."
Curtis Sironen will play five-eighth and Tom Moltzen halfback. Sironen went reasonably well in his first game of the season against the Dragons, and was then a late addition to the City side after injuries punched a hole in the original team.
The size and strength of Sironen should put the Broncos' defence in two minds at times, because of his ability to either offload in tackles or break the defensive line himself.
"Sirro did well for us last season," Ayshford said. "He got hurt at one stage and we lost three of our next four games without him, so he must have been having a decent impact. He can cause a lot of damage because he's so big.
"He can draw multiple defenders and still get the ball away, or he can play like a second-rower and bust through a tackle, so we've got the best of both worlds with him."
The Dragons made Sironen work hard. He was forced to make 30 tackles, and only missed one. In attack, he made nine runs for 83 metres.
The Broncos, unlike the Tigers, are a settled side at the moment, and Ayshford is well aware of how difficult a game this is going to be for the Tigers – even at home.
"There are a lot of young players in the Broncos' side, but they're already fairly experienced because most of them were only 18 or 19 when they came into the side," he said.
"It would be great if the fans could come out to Campbelltown in numbers, because I'm sure we can put together a performance that will give us a good chance of winning."