Tigers show heart in defeat
It mightn't have ended in victory, but interim Wests Tigers coach Andrew Webster says he enjoyed his first game in charge of the club despite blowing a 14-point lead to fall 22-14 to the Storm at Leichhardt Oval.
After a difficult week off the field that saw Jason Taylor replaced as head coach, the Tigers showed plenty of grit to open up a commanding first-half lead before the Storm fought back to claim their fourth win of the season.
Webster – who watched the game from the sidelines – said the attitude of his players washed away any possible nerves that could have eaten away at him during his first game in charge.
"I wasn't nervous because the boys relaxed me with their attitude. It hasn't been easy for them, but they came here today and the way they handled themselves was fantastic," Webster said after the game.
"The mood they had in the changing room and the focus they had made me feel really comfortable and relaxed.
"I suppose I'll look back on it and it will be enjoyable, but I just feel gutted for the boys. They deserved more today because they put a lot into it. We're not making excuses – we can do a lot better – but I'm proud of them."
The Tigers played the sort of footy that everyone knows they're capable of with their little men wreaking havoc around Melbourne's ruck, but a couple of injuries either side of half-time halted their momentum.
Bench forward Joel Edwards was forced from the field seven minutes after coming on having collected what appeared to be a high shot that directly led to a crucial Storm four-pointer right on half-time.
Edwards was joined in the sheds by halfback Luke Brooks who injured his hamstring while trying to chase down Cheyse Blair who scored the first of Melbourne's two long-range tries in the second half.
"We were excellent. We played with plenty of energy and we were playing together, that's for sure. I'm really proud of the boys' effort," Webster said.
"We wanted to use four subs at half-time but we got that head knock right on half-time and that left us with three subs. We lost 'Brooksy' in that second half to a hamstring injury and we just lost our energy a little bit.
"The boys didn't stop trying one little bit. They had those long-range tries on us when we were transitioning in defence and we just slackened off for that one play with our energy and it cost us.
"We spoke in the changing rooms about a few things that we could have changed and we would have come out winners. The performance was there and they wanted to play for each other and we take a lot of positives out of it."
Skipper Aaron Woods said he was proud of the way his side had handled the off-field drama but acknowledged the big challenge was to back that passion up on a weekly basis.
"We played with a lot of energy early on and we just wanted to play through the middle and try to beat them with our energy," Woods said.
"It's easy to get up for these sorts of games, but it's how we're going to react next week when it probably dies down a little bit [that matters] so we've just got to work hard for each other.
"Things get thrown at you – you get a few curveballs – but that's life in general. Things aren't always going to go your way, but it's about how you react in those situations.
"At the moment we've got a few curveballs coming our way, but it's about getting the boys out of this situation and the way I can lead them."