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Mid-season Report Card

Position after 13 rounds: 14th
Wins: 4
Losses: 8
Byes: 1
Points: 10
Differential: -60

It would appear there are plenty of shoulders nervous about getting tapped out in Tigertown at the moment, but the club is saying that’s an overreaction.

Yet again, for the fourth consecutive season since they won the premiership in 2005, Wests look destined to finish outside the top eight.

With just under half the season still to play, it’s too early to write them off totally, but the joint venture is going to have to put a winning run together like they did back in ’05 if they are to be any chance.

The talent is certainly there, but the continuity is sadly lacking and the Tigers struggle for consistency week to week, also battling to win close games.

In recent weeks calls have started for four-time premiership-winning coach, Tim Sheens to be sacked, but the players can’t think their slump is anyone’s fault but their own.

To have negative thoughts seeping into the back of their minds about the coach at this stage of the season could be damaging, and the men in white, black and gold need to believe in Sheens – because he is undoubtedly one of the great coaches in league history and is well suited to getting them out of this muddle.

At the moment it seems Tigers fans only care about two seasons – 2005 and next season.

The players need a run of wins this next month to prove this season matters as well…

Are Things Going To Plan? From the outside looking in it would seem absolutely not, but inside the camp, the Tigers are keeping calm about their situation. They have been buoyed by a number of quality performances this season, and even though they haven’t collected the two points often enough, they believe if they can maintain this standard the tide will turn.

Tim Sheens is disappointed his team isn’t in a better position, but according to his assistant Royce Simmons, things aren’t as bad as they seem.

“You start getting a lot of negativity from outside the area… people saying you lost X amount of games in a row… but the fact is we were still playing alright,” Simmons says.

“You get a lot of negativity thrown at you and that sticks in the back of your head and when you make half a break you think you’ve got to score from it. We just have to settle down and get a bit more patient and I can see a lot of good things coming from all this. I still think we can play a big part in the final run in.

But every loss now narrows our odds very quickly, so we’ve got to start putting some wins together pretty quickly because otherwise the odds start to close up on us.”

Injury Front… It’s true the Tigers have underachieved since they won the grand final in ’05, but tragically it’s also true they have been cruelled by injuries every year. Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah have been more blessed with health than they have previously, but they’ve still missed crucial matches.

The big losses however, have come in the form of Keith Galloway and Chris Lawrence. The red-headed front-rower had a barnstorming start to the season and was carrying the Tigers forward every match. He was even being mentioned in State of Origin conversations before he went down with a knee injury.

Galloway is due to return in Round 15. ‘Lawrence’ and ‘NSW’ had also been mentioned in the same sentence – but his Origin hopes and the Tigers’ chances crashed down when he badly damaged his ankle. It’s not just Lawrence either; fellow centres Dean Collis and Peni Tagive have also been sidelined, significantly testing Wests’ depth in the outside backs. Gareth Ellis will be missing for a couple of weeks with a broken thumb. That will hurt them.

If Only… Oh how Tim Sheens would love to have the month of May back again! It all started in Round 8 when they were gallant in going down 22-20 to the Bulldogs.

They enjoyed a bye in Round 9, but the poor fortune continued in Round 10 when they were downed by a miraculous Nathan Merritt field goal at the SCG. Then the next Friday night the Broncos escaped with a two-point win at Campbelltown and in Round 12 they were flat in being defeated 14-0 by the Warriors in Auckland. Losing three matches by less than two points can be the difference between making the playoffs and missing out – and this could well come back to bite them come September. A win or two in May would have them still in the thick of the finals race.

Who’s Flying… Every week this season Robbie Farah has proven why he’ll wear the no.9 for NSW for years to come.

He has put in some mammoth performances for the Wests Tigers this season – the problem has been he hasn’t received much support. Farah tops the NRL’s hookers for tries, tackle breaks, average metres, total metres, average runs and offloads and is second in try assists. Quite remarkable.

Needs To Lift… Although the Wests Tigers’ coaching staff will defend him, Benji Marshall needs to lead the way. He has been sensational in some games, primarily his man-of-the-match effort against the Roosters in Round 3 when he pulled out one of his trademark flick passes and had a hand in everything, and the Knights in Round 7 when he kicked the match-winning goal from the sideline. But with the no. 7 on his back, Marshall needs to be more consistent. That said, Marshall’s stats are impressive: he trails only Johnathan Thurston for try assists and line break assists by NRL halfbacks.

Royce Simmons Tells “There are some negatives there but with that comes a lot of opportunities for young kids, and while everyone would like the senior players to be playing, every time one of those young players gets a first grade game, and in this case when they start getting five or six in a row, they start getting the right education for the future. It’s an exciting time to bring the kids in and from a coach’s point of view to tell the young bloke that he’s playing his first NRL grade game is great. We’re giving them a chance to watch them mature and there’s some blokes, like young Blake Ayshford, who are really starting to show some things. So as much as it’s a negative you’re always happy to take the positives out of it that there’s some kids getting first grade experience. And we think they can do the job down the track.”

Predicted Finish… Not their year – 11th at best, but perhaps as low as 15th.

Under-20s… The Wests Tigers are very well placed in the Toyota Cup. They are sitting in sixth position with six wins, a draw and five losses. Coach Grant Jones will be looking for more consistency from his players in the second half of the year, but they are in the mix and have a genuine shot at making the top four. Lock Matt Hyland has been a standout each week; he is from the Chris Heighington mould of hard work and commitment.
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