Taylor leaves door open for Farah return
A strong Wests Tigers win over the Dragons on the back of impressive games from young halves Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses, paired with some at-times unconvincing dummy-half service, has not resoundingly answered the question of how Robbie Farah fits in at the club for the rest of the season – and nor has the coach.
Speaking after the win, Jason Taylor indicated Farah – who played well in reserve grade the day prior to the Tigers' 25-12 NRL victory – would remain in contention for first grade selection and insisted he was still a chance of getting the three games he needs to notch 250 in the NRL.
Reserve rake Manaia Cherrington was not picked and promising youngster Jacob Liddle cannot play in the NRL again this year due to salary cap constraints, leaving the likes of Dene Halatau, Elijah Taylor and surprise choice Jordan Rankin to fill the breach.
Halatau continues to do a serviceable job, as he has done throughout the year when needed, and Rankin – capable of playing at the top level in the halves – stepped in for periods against the Dragons.
"Robbie had a good performance in that [reserve grade] game [on Saturday] in a team that played really strongly. We had some good players playing back there which is good for our depth and he'll be considered for the team for next week's game," Taylor said.
Taylor insisted it was "still possible" for Farah to play the three more games required to bring up 250 career matches this season, adding he wasn't surprised by the support generated by the fan favourite amongst the Tigers faithful.
"I think Robbie is deservedly very popular at Wests Tigers because of what he's done for the club as a player," Taylor said.
"A player who has played that amount of games for one club and won a grand final like he has deserves that sort of support and he got that support and it was great.
"But the decision isn't made around anything other than this team and what we want to do going forward. They're just two different things and I respect what Robbie has done for this club enormously and I know it's a tough call but this is a decision made for the future."
Taylor added the win over the Dragons was not any form of vindication of his decision to leave Farah out.
"It was never going to boil down to just this game and the result on the scoreboard and I've had to work hard at saying that over the last few days," he said.
"I don't think it's about vindication but it's about a direction that I wanted to see the team keep moving toward and I saw that today. It impacts both our attack and our defence and our defence was really strong there [on Sunday]."
Five-eighth Moses – who played a blinder against the Dragons – was pleased the playing group had been able to put the distractions to one side rather than letting it affect their performance.
"In the last couple of years we've had a few of those dramas and probably let it affect out footy but we came together as a group and we didn't let it affect us this week and it showed in our footy tonight," Moses told NRL.com.
One of the reasons given for Farah's demotion by Taylor was the suggestion the young halves needed to have the freedom to dominate and control the team, which he felt was being stifled by Farah's presence.
Asked if that may have helped enhance his own game, Moses threw his support behind Farah.
"It wasn't so much that (having more freedom). Robbie's a club legend, you can't fault him in anything he does. We're just trying to play good footy week in week out and hopefully we can keep that up," Moses said.