It is immensely disappointing to me that the Wests Tigers continue to do their darnedest to avoid success.
Let me put that opening line into perspective. I was a Balmain Tigers fan, nay fanatic, since the mid-1980s.
I wasn’t born in the Balmain district, I’ve never lived in the area, but for this boy from Kogarah, the Tigers were a massive part of my life.
The 1990s came and there was plenty of disappointments, but despite the challenges, there was always a good chance the famous Tiger spirit would come out and the ‘good guys’ would get the points.
Super League came and things changed, you could see that eventually, the competition was going to need, or at least want fewer Sydney clubs.
In the early days a merger with Souths had been mooted, maybe even the Roosters too, but when things started heating up it looked like the Tigers might get with the Eels, a prospect I could not support (despite the fact the Tigers had recently finished a two-year stint at Parramatta Stadium).
A merger with Western Suburbs, a club that had caused no real pain to me as a Balmain fan, seemed a good option.
As a Balmain Football Club Member, I went along to Balmain Leagues Club and voted for a new future – a future that I thought was going to be bigger, stronger, and more enjoyable.
Yes, the unbelievable happened and the Wests Tigers won the competition in 2005. It was an achievement I had thought I most likely will never see and remain eternally grateful for.
But what has happened in the main since that short, yet highly enjoyable golden run has left me feeling hollow.
You see, when the Tigers struggled in the 90s you could understand it, you could make sense of it. We had little money and a generation of wonderful talent (Pearce, Elias, Jack, and Roach) had retired.
To see the Wests Tigers in 2021, the potential powerhouse NRL club of Sydney continually stammering and stumbling from one cock-up to another breaks my heart.
Frankly, I’m sick of the excuses. Why? Because there are no legitimate excuses for the continued poor performance of this club.
This club is marketable, it has a wonderful shared history, it has absolutely every opportunity to be awesome, yet I believe the standards set, and accepted, are much less than that high mark.
I had reason to visit Wests Tigers headquarters at Concord a couple of times in the past year and just walking in the front door had me shaking my head.
Now, to be fair these are short-term offices while the Centre of Excellence is being built, however, the foyer was a mess with boxes and general untidiness.
If I was a player walking in here to discuss a deal I would already be put off.
The continuing lack of direction around a home ground, or home grounds, is a sign that this is an organization that has no direction.
Sadly, there is also no effort on the club’s behalf to sell a vision of the future.
There is no mission statement, well, there is one that the club puts forwards – ‘Enriching the Lives of our Community’. Please. That’s noble and all, I presume it means something around junior rugby league teams…maybe?
In comparison, Melbourne Storm’s reason for existing is an aim ‘to experience the thrill of competing and winning together.’
On the PR front, the club comes up with initiatives like ‘Ask the Boss’…it lasted for three editions.
How about the way the club is treated by the media? There is very little respect for the club, the club very rarely seems to go on the front foot and that’s despite the reputation of the club taking a hammering time and time again.
I know that the club can’t respond to every issue that a journalist puts forward, I know that sometimes these articles are mere ‘clickbait’, however, the club needs to stand up and not be pushed around so frequently.
On the same front, where is the consistency with regards to messaging around player contract negotiations?
The Chairman says one thing, the CEO says something else, the Coach doesn’t seem to know what’s going on. All this is easy fodder for rugby league journalists.
How about missing out on top-line players such as Josh Addo-Carr? My understanding was we even had a signed letter of intent from the NSW winger.
What was learned in the process of eventually losing out to the Bulldogs over that one?
Was anything in the club’s recruitment processes reviewed and amended to avoid future slipups? Evidently not, if you believe the reports around the missing out on Tavita Pangai Juniors signature.
CEO Justin Pascoe on episode one of the Fox Sports production ‘Tales from Tiger Town’ said the club strives for excellence…if only there were some little signs of excellence actually being reached by this organization.
At the moment I’m scratching my head trying to work out when the Wests Tigers last really aced something…either on the field or off.
Like so many of my Wests Tigers brothers and sisters I will battle ahead, I will continue to believe that one-day things might change, at the moment though it is very hard to see a bright future.