Sterling: Why the Tigers aren't playing like contenders
Sir Winston Churchill once described the possible actions of Russia as "a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma".
Now they may not have many surnames ending in "olov", but surely the Wests Tigers are the Russkies of the Telstra premiership.
After being robbed against the Roosters in last year's qualifying final and then pipped by the Dragons in the grand final qualifier, the Tigers carried great public expectation into the 2011 season.
They were viewed by many as the biggest threat to St George Illawarra successfully defending their title, but to be honest they have failed to justify that rating in what has so far been a disappointing campaign.
Like so many I have been waiting for them to hit their straps but time is running out. With nine losses and just seven wins their finals aspirations are on a knife's edge, and three straight losses suggest a complete lack of momentum at this crucial stage of the season.
The club has no doubt attracted a lot of unwanted publicity this year in a number of different areas but coach Tim Sheens put such negativity in its place in no uncertain terms following their loss to Parramatta.
At the post-match conference he was incensed at suggestions that news of players leaving the club next year was affecting what they were looking to achieve this year.
He rightly pointed out that his players were professionals and as such were expected to deal with issues by getting on with the job at hand. He was adamant that off-field matters had nothing to do with dropped balls or bad decision-making.
Tim also stated that the team performance could be turned around in a week and it is here that I struggle to be as convinced by his words.
At the moment the Tigers are close enough if good enough. They are one of four teams on 18 points but sit in ninth position on percentages with a -12 differential.
The concern I have is that their limited successes so far this season have been relatively unimpressive and not against those sides that I rate as the leading contenders when it comes to winning a title.
They have gone down to Melbourne, St George Illawarra and Brisbane, despite meeting the Storm and Dragons at ideal times following the first and second State of Origins.
Their meeting with Manly in three weeks time will be another clash that should give us an insight into their capabilities.
Like every other club, injuries have played a detrimental role in the Tiger's season.
There is no doubt that extended stays on the sideline for Gareth Ellis, Chris Lawrence, Lote Tuqiri and Todd Payten have hurt them, as will losing dynamic back-rower Simon Dwyer.
However the depth of their squad in covering this occupational hazard is better than most and they were unscathed by Origin outside of missing Keith Galloway for Game Three.
The big question mark I have over the Tigers is their ability to win football games under any circumstances.
Whilst coach Sheens pointed out that his team "had tackled their arses off" in recent weeks, that still wasn't good enough to get them the points and I still don't see them as a team that can grind out a win when that is what's required.
In fact their last three wins indicate that they are actually a better team chasing points than defending them.
Against Penrith in round 11 they were headed for defeat until a wayward kick allowed Benji Marshall to race 80 metres to change the momentum and initiate a comeback.
Even more spectacular was the come-from-behind victory three weeks later against the Warriors where they trailed 22-4 with just 19 minutes remaining. An outrageous Gareth Ellis flick pass was the catalyst on that occasion.
Lodged in between was a golden point win over Newcastle in which the Tigers drew square on the scoreboard in the 74th minute.
What resonated most for me out of all of these matches was a statement made by Benji Marshall after their narrowest of victories over the Panthers.
In the final 20 seconds of that game Benji attempted a looping cut-out pass to his winger on his own try-line despite the close attendance of a Penrith defender.
When questioned about the totally uncalled-for play, Benji replied that they were leading by two and he thought they could win by eight.
Benji Marshall is the mentality of the Wests Tigers; he is their most influential player and when he is at his best so are they.
I have said a number of times that the Tigers' biggest strength is also their biggest weakness.
In my opinion if this exciting football team is to reach the heights they may be capable of, they have to get the balance right of thinking that they can win by eight – but knowing that all that matters is winning by two.