Tough initiation hurting Moses
The Wests Tigers' biggest fear this weekend shouldn't be the possibility of another cricket score.
They shouldn't worry about another former player airing his dirty laundry, or a frustrated skipper who threatens to call it quits.
No, their worst enemy right now is the gaping wound that could be sapping all the confidence out of their school of prodigious kids right now.
Last week's disappointing 27-12 loss to stragglers Canberra extended their losing run to six straight games, having lost eight of their past nine overall.
It's a torrid stretch that, if not for the old heads at Tigers HQ, could've had a scarring effect on young players like talented five-eighth Mitchell Moses.
"I think in a couple of games I've looked into what I've done wrong a couple of times, emphasised a bit too much on it and it's probably affected my game," Moses told NRL.com on Wednesday.
"But that's where guys like Woodsy and Farah have been good with me. They let me know that if I make a mistake, not to let it get to me. They said that I've just to keep doing the things I did in the lower grades that got me here in the first place."
When the Tigers host another besieged club in the Cronulla Sharks on Saturday, the 19-year-old will be out to end one of rugby league's meanest initiations.
Since making his debut back in Round 17, Moses has tasted victory just once.
It may not quite be on the same level as foundation club University, whose 1908 squad began Australian rugby league with one win in 23 starts, but rarely has a young player faced such a daunting start to his career in recent times.
"I'll have played ten games this weekend, but I've learnt so much about the ups and downs, how much pressure there actually is to be a full-time, first-grade player, and what these guys actually go through," he said.
"I haven't had the best start to first grade. Coming in, I've only won one out of nine. It's been hard, but all we can do is look forward to next year and resurrecting our club."
To that end, the Holy Cross Ryde product is hellbent on making a fist of the no. 6 jumper.
An injury to old mate Luke Brooks has forced off-contract coach Mick Potter into ushering Moses into the halves, where he has heard the howls of critics who question his capacity to defend.
"I've actually liked a bit more load on my shoulders. Getting mixed up in the defence, I think I've handled it well. I've enjoyed it," he said.
"I wanted to show people what I could as a six, as well as the load I can take, the pressure I can take. I want to take it all and throw my body around. A lot of people have been saying that I can't really defend and that I'm a bit small for the front line."
While he admits a number of his team-mates have already had one eye on the off-season, Moses says he's got his on the pre-season, where he can focus on a spine that includes long time team-mates James Tedesco and Luke Brooks.
"One hundred per cent there are players who can't wait for it to end. But I reckon we're all looking forward to next year and what we can do," he said.
"We looked so promising earlier on in the year. I think the club knows what we can do and we're all looking forward to next year.
"Teddy will be fit for the pre-season, Brooksy will get another pre-season under his belt. We'll all be together, and that's probably one of the good things to come out of this year, if anything."
That's if these heavy losses haven't knocked the rest of his young team-mates senseless.
"I know how you can see that it'll affect a few of us. But I think the kids that are here, they're all level-headed. They don't look too much into the media," he said.
"It's pretty hard. In the lower grades here, you're used to winning. When you've got a strong junior group coming into grade and losing a couple of games, it's not good. But I think the boys are handling it alright. It'll be a learning curve."