Matt Encarnacion, NRL.com
Patience is the buzzword at Wests Tigers HQ, with Mick Potter’s new-look coaching team gathering ahead of the playing squad’s return to training next week.
New assistant coaches David Kidwell and Todd Payten, along with under-20s coach Andrew Webster, were trotted out on Wednesday to talk about life in the post-Benji Marshall era.
And at first glance, the outlook is very green, with much of their 2014 campaign to centre on the emergence of rising halfback Luke Brooks. In fact, Potter will only have half a dozen players over the age of 27 at his disposal next season. Furthermore, he will have around 16 players under the age of 23.
“It’s part of the reason why we got Keith Lulia, Cory Paterson, Pat Richards and Dene Halatau, just to give us that little bit of seniority,” Potter told NRL.com.
“Rather than having your team full of 20- or 21-year-olds that get beat by guys that are more senior, guys that are more hardened NRL players,” he continued. “We’ll have a mixed bag there, [but] we’re still reliant on our young guys.”
Potter admits a horror injury toll forced him to blood youngsters in 2013 before they were ready.
“To be fair some of the young guys that played for us through misfortune of other people, they were fortunate enough to get a start, and that probably came before they were ready for a lot of them,” he said.
“[But] they made the best of it and they showed that they could compete, at times, for 80 minutes.
“The learning experience that they got will make them better for 2014. That’ll make them better players. They’ll need to understand that they need to work harder than they have.”
Kidwell, who coached the likes of Adam Reynolds, Nathan Peats and Dylan Farrell in his time as coach of the Rabbitohs’ under-20s, has implored fans to be patient with the club’s plethora of young talent.
“Just in general, young people are called generation Y, but I reckon it’s generation I now. All the young kids want it now, they just want, want, want,” says Kidwell, who arrives after three seasons as an assistant to Craig Bellamy in Melbourne.
“Obviously there’s a lot of talk about Brooksy. I actually watched his game against St George Illawarra and I thought he, for an 18-year-old kid, showed some maturity there.
“But you have to be patient with him, not putting too much pressure on the young kid. Obviously he can play – but he is only 18.”
The appointment of Payten was logical given his experience coaching the club’s under-20s team for the past two years, including a premiership in 2012.
The club legend echoed Kidwell’s call for supporters to show faith in Brooks and hinted that the experienced Braith Anasta would get first shot at partnering him in the halves.
“We’ve got no choice but to chuck him in but the members and supporters need to realise that he’s 18 years old and hasn’t got a monster pack around him,” Payten said.
“The kid’s super talented and I’ve got no doubt in his ability. He’ll have some ups and downs along the way but we just need to be patient and support him.
“He’s well aware also that first grade is a different beast [to under-20s]. He’ll definitely be a target.”