In what can only be described as a season-defining loss, the Wests Tigers have gone down to the Warriors 20-26. Even though the New Zealand Warriors to their credit played well, Wests Tigers players might have just ensured that the club will not play finals footy yet again in 2020.
There was a lot to unload from the game at the Sydney Cricket Ground but here is my reaction to the loss.
The Tigers didn’t meet the Warriors in the middle
In what was by far the most disappointing aspect of the game, the Tigers were completely bashed and outmuscled by the warriors up the middle.
In all honesty, the Warriors looked like a 20’s team and the Tigers looked like an under 18’s team in terms of size, aggression, and intent to dominate the middle.
The Tigers just didn’t seem interested in winning the middle and I think they were just content to let the Warriors tire out.
This never happened however and only got worse in the second half. A lot of Tigers fans rate the Tigers forward pack but there are some real questions marks in my opinion about their ability to make yards up the middle of the field.
Reagan Campell-Gillard for the Parramatta Eels last week ran for 247 metres compared to Russell Packer and Josh Aloiai who combined for just 227 metres!
In the Warriors game, only two Wests Tigers forwards registered more than 100 metres with Josh Aloiai with 146 metres and Thomas Mikaele running for 117 metres.
Not only did the Tigers forwards not aim up during yardage, but they also couldn’t stop the Warriors in the middle either.
Five New Zealand Warriors players recorded more than 100 metres with Jack Hetherington (139 metres), Eliesa Katoa (131 metres), Tohu Harris (181 metres), Jazz Tevaga (168 metres) and Lachlan Burr (150 metres off the bench).
These stats are very alarming because it’s not like the Warriors are a premiership contender so either the Forwards attitude wasn’t right for the game or they just lack the talent to transition into a top tier forward pack.
Either answer will cause concern for Michael Maguire. Players like Oliver Clarke and Luke Garner in particular need to do more to generate momentum up the middle of the field.
There’s too many forwards in the Tigers pack from last night’s that just didn’t do their job and let down the fans with their performance.
If The Tigers hope to compete with the better teams, they need to be much more productive in this area of the game.
A complete inability to stop the offload of the warriors
Another piece of evidence that the Tigers never showed up was the team’s complete failure to stop the Warriors from creating second-phase play.
The Warriors recording 18 offloads to the Wests Tigers 4 which is a clear example of the team losing the contact and a lack of concentration to secure the ball in the tackle.
Jazz Tevaga on his own had 6 offloads which is a really poor effort from the Tigers defensively.
There seem to be no good answers to the spine problem
It’s been really well documented that the Wests Tigers haven’t been scared to switch up the 6 and 7 this season. The media has portrayed it in a somewhat positive way focusing on accountability for performance but the truth is all the combinations have failed so far.
Against New Zealand, Kodi Nikorima and Blake Green absolutely outplayed Benji Marshall and Billy Walters.
The Warriors attack looked much more organized with a purpose in mind to isolate Chris Lawrence one on one with Peter Hiku and they went out and executed.
The Tigers halves, on the other hand, couldn’t make it count when they had possession of the ball with an inability to kick the team out of pressure.
The goal-line attack from the Tigers also looked the second rate with not much creativity considering the ball-playing options in the squad.
The scary thing for me is that there is no clear answer to the problem within the squad. Luke Brooks came onto the field in the second half and made minimal impact proving that his form slump isn’t over yet and no one else has stepped up besides Marshall.
The only option that hasn’t been tossed up yet is Jock Madden but giving the responsibility to an untested rookie is a massive ask for the young playmaker.
Throw in the fact that Harry Grant will most likely be gone next year and Adam Doueihi’s form slump at Fullback and you’ve got an absolute disaster in terms of the spin for next year.
In today’s NRL free market, good playmakers are in such high demand which will make recruitment an absolute nightmare for the Tigers so let’s hope for a miracle that the football department can manufacture something first-class because the team needs it.
Goal-kicking continues to be a massive problem
The Tigers inability to come up with someone who can kick goals continues to cause PTSD for Wests Tigers fans.
Statistically, the Tigers are the worst in the competition at kicking goals and something needs to be done soon because it just looks like the coaching staff doesn’t seem to see it as much of an issue going into next year with no goal kickers except Momirovski coming into the squad next year.
Why don’t the Tigers generate any repeat sets?
This problem is linked to the playmaker’s problem but I think it deserves its own paragraph.
The Tigers Halves just don’t generate enough repeat sets to create sustained pressure on the opposition.
Even the Warriors who aren’t known for building pressure forced 3 goal line drop outs compared to the Tigers who produced none.
This is a massive problem for Michael Maguire which is why the club needs to look to recruit externally.
Some tough questions need to be asked of the players
The Warriors game is as good evidence as any that there needs to be a big change in terms of the squad next year.
Players like Luke Brooks, Moses Mbye, Russell Packer and Josh Reynolds are on huge money and are holding back the team at this point.
Mbye, in particular, was brought over as a Fullback on good money but for whatever reason seems content just to play in the centres and miss kickable goals.
Surely the Captain of the club needs to be setting higher standards for the rest of the team.
Is there an attitude problem at the club?
Under a Maguire team, I wouldn’t usually ask this question but losses to the Titans and Warriors in the same season shows cause for concern.
Some fans have come out and stated that losing is in the clubs DNA and although I don’t agree with the concept of what was in the past will always be going into the future, it’s hard to argue given what I watched on Friday night.
Every season the Tigers just seem to have 2 or 3 terrible performances that end up costing them a place in the 8 and it looks like this season is no different.
As a Tigers fan, it just breaks my heart every year to see the team repeat the same cycle of mistakes.
Whether this is due to an attitude problem or a lack of mental toughness is hard to guess because only people within the bubble truly know but it’s so disappointing to watch the Tigers eliminate themselves from another finals series.
Image: Wests Tigers