Wests Tigers on two paths: Cleary
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary admits his side is on two paths after finding enough muscle late in the game to beat the Bulldogs 18-12 at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.
The club's player retention has been the hottest topic at Concord for the past month and Cleary made the decision earlier in the week to pull new deals off the table for skipper Aaron Woods and Camden junior James Tedesco.
Both players put their futures aside to play their part in the Tigers' third win of the season, providing some short-term relief for the club and fans.
"We're on two paths at the moment, one is a long-term strategy and the other is a short-term precedence of this season," Cleary said post-game.
"It's a big 17 today, I was proud of every one of them.
"I thought our first half was the best we've produced in my short tenure at the club, the second half had its moments and we fumbled our way through, but it wasn't through lack of application.
"The guys understand now they are actually fit enough, it's just some more mental application than anything.
"Throughout the week and yesterday's training session it was really obvious that they were actually really focused and determined, I think that's evident in the game today.
"Today showed we're focused [on-field] and we're competitive at the moment.
"If we can continue to improve and evolve then we will end up where we deserve at the end of the year."
Two wins from three games since Cleary took the reigns has got the joint venture back on track for a finals berth and the external distraction has brought the side closer together, according to Wests Tigers back-rower Chris Lawrence.
"Obviously there have been a lot of distractions externally but every time we've got to training we enjoy each other's company," Lawrence said.
"Those boys have got a lot going on outside of those training walls but once they get in there we are there to have fun and rip in.
"If anything [footy] is an outlet for them, they don't have to think about anything else but to enjoy playing footy."
Cleary also spoke of the speculation Woods would depart the club for the Bulldogs after being photographed earlier in the week dining out with the opposition.
The Leichhardt junior was greeted by a negative response from Wests Tigers fans pre-game and again when he received the medal for best on field in an inspiring 217-metre performance.
"I think he does [have coffee with Bulldogs players] regularly, so at the end of the day it's up to Aaron and anyone else what they do in their spare time, so I thought it was fine," Cleary said.
"Obviously it's different, in the old days you wouldn't have done that but there wouldn't be as many cameras around either.
"[The booing] fans pay their money so I guess they can do what they want."
The Tigers will next face a Cronulla Sharks line-up reeling from a 16-12 loss to the Titans on Saturday.