External factors have taken their toll: Cleary
Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary admits external distractions may have taken their toll on the team's performances over the past month and hopes a refresh over bye round and improved effort against the Dragons signals the start of an upward trend for the club.
The dragged-out negotiations with playmaker Mitch Moses – who was eventually released mid-season to Parramatta – coupled with stars James Tedesco and Aaron Woods signing elsewhere for next season and the eventually-successful mid-season recruitment of Tui Lolohea from the Warriors had the Tigers as the club most affected by the mid-year player merry-go-round.
Cleary himself was a mid-season arrival after previous coach Jason Taylor was sacked and that came on the back of the Tim Simona gambling drama.
The bye week gave Cleary the chance to get the players away from the day to day environment for a bit and he was hopeful now the club could focus on improvement free of external distractions.
"I mentioned after our last game (a 36-0 loss to Brisbane), there's been so much happening at our club externally and I think part of that has taken its toll," Cleary said.
"There are players moving and coming and going and will he-won't he, all that kind of stuff. I said it's part of our game's transfer system where it's happening right through the middle of the season.
"It's turned out our club's been affected more than anyone else so it's good to have a week off last week and focus on what's important, how we measure success at the moment and I'm confident we can make some progress and if we do that we'll start picking up some more wins."
The Tigers stuck at their task against the third-placed Dragons and scored a late try to give themselves a chance to steal a win but fell just short.
"The second half there were some really positive signs," Cleary said.
"The first half we looked like we were lacking a bit of confidence. We were doing a lot of things right but couldn't quite back it up, whether it be a sloppy kick chase or just some little execution areas there.
"Certainly came out of the match feeling like we're definitely making some progress. We competed hard but we also know we've got to play better… Even in the first half there were some good things but we couldn't quite string it together. When you're confident that just happens. We made some decent strides today after what's been a pretty disappointing month."