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Leichhardt scoreboard a special place for Farah but it couldn't save Tigers

Inside the Leichhardt Oval scoreboard, underneath the thick film of dust that has collected over the past 667 days, is a piece of corrugated flute board with the word "Fazz" painted on it.

You know the one? The sign Robbie Farah sat next to while he was downing a few cold ones on top of the scoreboard when he farewelled his beloved ground two seasons ago.

Given the rust on some of the old tin signs inside the dilapidated, yet iconic, scoreboard, Fazz is probably the newest of the lot. But as they say, what's old is new again.

"King Robbie", as one banner read, was back. Back for game 248 in the black, white and gold.

"It should have been his 250th before he left," one of the Tigers diehards inside the scoreboard yells across the room to the bloke changing the score after Farah threw the final pass that led to a Josh Reynolds try.

On the back of that Fazz sign, which is put back up at half-time, is the R.I.P acronym.

"They put that up a week after Farah left," the scoreboard attendant says.

The Leichhardt Oval scoreboard.
The Leichhardt Oval scoreboard. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"That's how pissed off people were with the club for letting him go."

Just ask the bloke with the homemade banner on the hill that read "JT is still a dog" in reference to former coach Jason Taylor. Despite Farah's best efforts to put the past behind him, clearly some people couldn't let go.

Of more importance was making sure the Tigers didn't let go of their finals hopes on an afternoon they were expected to win.

Farah reflects on emotional return

But unfortunately, there was probably no more fitting sign than "R.I.P" to be displayed after the loss to the Gold Coast Titans on Sunday.

Despite the emotion of Farah's return and Moses Mbye's arrival, the Wests Tigers' season looks beyond repair. Over. Gone. Six points behind the team in eighth.

"It's the reason I came back," Farah said of the team's slim hopes of returning to finals football.

"We're on the cusp. It doesn't help that we lost and Brisbane winning last night probably gives them a bit of breathing space. I think we are six points behind them with eight games to go so it is going to be tough.

"But we can't worry about all those results. If we win six or seven of our last eight, it is tough but you never say never."

There was almost the fairytale story. When Farah picked up a deflected kick and sprinted – as well as a 34-year-old can – towards the Keith Barnes Stand at the southern end of the ground with his team trailing by two converted tries with nine minutes remaining.

Match Highlights: Wests Tigers v Titans - Round 16, 2018

But he was chased down as quickly as his team's season has fallen apart after a promising opening.

"I thought I was going to get there," Farah said after the game.

"But then I realised I was 34 years old and probably not as quick as I used to be. We needed something. I saw Ash Taylor, their main kicker, go the short side, so I stuck my leg out, got a good bounce and thought I was away. But the old legs couldn't get there."

On top of the scoreboard reads "Wayne Pearce Hill". Given Farah's contribution to the Tigers, and his obsession with Leichhardt Oval, there may come a day when his name is hung up from an old ceiling or fence at his beloved Leichhardt.

The view from inside the Leichhardt Oval scoreboard.
The view from inside the Leichhardt Oval scoreboard. ©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

"Heroes get remembered but legends never die," one banner read.

Farah said: "I was excited when I woke up first thing in the morning.

"Walking into the sheds seeing our dressing room attendants, our gear guys, people who have been here for 20 years, they had a tear in the eye. I tried to hold back the tears.

I've been brought back here to do a job and to help us win games and I couldn't do that today.

Robbie Farah

"But, I've been brought back here to do a job and to help us win games and I couldn't do that today. While all the external things were nice, we're here to win football games."

Farah said it best before the game.

"With everyone saying 'Robbie is back, it's a great story' - what will be an even better story is if we make the semis. They didn't get me back to sell a few tickets."

Well, they did sell a few tickets – 16,984 of them to be exact. A sell-out.

Most of them came wanting to witness a piece of history. A day to tell the grandkids about. In the end it was a day of what-ifs and how-comes.

"It didn't go to script," a dejected Farah said.

"A win would've been nice, obviously. It's a downer that we didn't get the result. It's a special occasion for me. To play my first game here at Leichhardt is very special for me, being a local junior. I couldn't have asked for better conditions, sunny Sunday afternoon, packed hill, unfortunately the fans go away disappointed."

Acknowledgement of Country

National Rugby League respects and honours the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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