The battle for Western Sydney dominance will continue again on Thursday night when the Wests Tigers face off against the Parramatta Eels at Bankwest Stadium.
Any fan paying attention knows that there is a great sense of tension and borderline hate between the two factions. The average fan will throw this down to the fact that the Eels poached Ryan Matterson from the Tigers and thumped us in an embarrassing 51 points to 6 white-wash last year.
They’d only be half right though with the bitterness between the two fan bases running much deeper than this.
There are three individual storylines that will have us Tigers fans begging their team to wipe the floor with the Eels on Thursday night:
I think it can be agreed that Mitchell Moses left the Tigers in pretty much the worst way possible.
After a 5 five-star junior career at the Tigers, Moses along with Luke Brooks looked set to lead the Tigers into an era of dominance but these plans were cut short in 2017 when Moses, along with the other members of the so-called ‘big four’, derailed the Tigers season with an ugly and very public contract debate.
Mitchell Moses was so thankful to the Tigers for giving him a chance to achieve his dreams in first grade that he ended up signing with the Eels midway through the season and asked for an immediate release to join the Eels.
Moses, along with Aaron Woods, cited wanting to avoid off-field drama as the main reason for departing the Tigers but that always made me aggravated because they were the ones driving the headlines through their manager Isaac Moses in an attempt to increase their value on the open market and never backed it up on the playing field.
The Tigers have had many rough seasons but 2017 for me was the worst because it was clear that the passion that club legends such as Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah had brought to the jersey was dead with three of our 4 best players including the Captain of the club leaving.
Moses, unlike Tedesco and Woods, decided that he couldn’t wait till the end of the season to jump ship and reportedly asked for numerous releases at the midway point of the year.
The requests were eventually accepted and then coach Ivan Cleary said the reason for this was based on the performances of and the changed demeanor of Moses. To translate, this is a nice way of saying that Moses spat the dummy big time.
He the dummy so hard that it was reported that Isaac Moses was going to NRL and NRLPA to complain about the fact that the Tigers were not going to release him from his contract.
The Tigers not only paid Moses when he was an untested rookie but also gave him the chance to grow, fail and learn in first grade for years and he didn’t even have enough respect for the club to finish off the 2017 season before departing.
For Moses to put the club through the wringer in the way he did, no wonder Wests Tigers fans have nothing but contempt for him.
The digs and shots Moses has taken over the years towards the Tigers haven’t helped matters on this front so any time we the play the Eels, Wests Tigers players should know the disrespect that the former player has shown towards the club and act accordingly.
A lot has been said about this player in the last few days and Ryan Matterson deserves every bit of it.
After coming from a successful system at the Roosters playing off the bench, Matterson skyrocketed to Origin contention with the Tigers in what can only be described as a break-out year where he finally managed to cement a starting position.
From the outside looking in, everything was great with Matterson establishing himself as one of the best young forwards in the game and the Tigers gaining a future Captain and forward leader that the club could potentially build around.
However, at the end of the 2019 season rumors starting circulating that Ryan Matterson wanted out of the Tigers.
When I first heard this I was shocked because Matterson under Michael Maguire was 18th man for game one of origin in 2019. However, once the rumors started to circulate, everything went downhill from there.
Speculation that Matterson wasn’t happy with the value of his contract to rumors that the backrower didn’t agree with Maguire’s intense training policy all hit the media cycle.
The most disappointing thing about the whole ordeal was that Matterson gave his manager permission to tarnish the reputation of the club in the media by bringing into question Madge’s coaching methods as a reason for wanting to leave.
Matterson then refused to report to training.
To have so little respect for a coach and a club that allowed you to push your origin claims says a lot about Ryan Matterson.
Enter the Eels and if asked to put on my conspiracy hat, there is absolutely no way that the Eels didn’t have a contract waiting for Matterson on the condition that he got out of his Tigers contract.
It is entirely possible that the Eels enticed Matterson to break his contract in the first place. So like Moses, Matterson left in extremely bad circumstances and allegedly stated the Tigers “would never win a title” on his way out.
The Eels have rejected this claim but they would have no idea what happened between the four walls of Concord and it’s not like Matterson is the most honest and reliable source of information.
The entire situation has left a really bad taste in Wests Tigers fans mouths.
As a fan, it’s disappointing to see Tigers players come out support Matterson’s actions.
I’m sure Matterson is a good guy but what he did to the club was the wrong thing to do, plain and simple and Wests Tigers fans won’t forget that in a hurry. I’m just hoping that the Tigers players haven’t forgotten or moved on.
The immediate future of young gun Stefano Utoikamanu has caused a great sense of tension between the Wests Tigers and Parramatta Eels.
The young prop has inked a 3-year deal with the club starting in 2021 with the Tigers, and the Eels were so aggravated that they lodged an official complaint with the NRL claiming that Wests had made contact with Utoikamanu before November 1st breaching league rules.
This claim went nowhere and the contract was registered soon after.
Naturally, the Tigers along with Utoikamanu asked for an early release from the Eels to start at Concord for the 2020 season. This made sense for both the player and the Tigers.
Utoikamanu would get a pay rise and immediate first-grade experience in a Tigers team light on middle forwards with x-factor.
The Eels, however, denied the release request which is a real action of bad faith considering that Matterson and Moses were both released from the Tigers to Parramatta before their contracts expired.
Brad Arthur stated that the reason for this was because the young prop was a valuable member of the squad in 2020 which is a fair enough excuse on the surface.
However, fast forward to the present, Parramatta in the last few weeks has had a bit of an injury crisis in the forwards and Utoikamanu has played a combined total of 8 minutes in two games.
This leads me to believe that Parramatta’s reasons for denying a release stem from the fact that they don’t want the Tigers to have the highly-rated prop.
They would rather stunt his development for a year and limit his ability to earn more money than do the right thing and let him play first grade somewhere else where he is needed.
What’s even more disappointing is the constant rumors that the Eels are trying to get the young Prop to backflip on his deal which is very disappointing if true.
The whole situation perfectly summarizes the bad blood between the two western Sydney clubs.
So when the Tigers kick-off on Thursday night, fans should know that there are more than two competition points on the line. It’s a chance for the Tigers to show that the club has regained its heart and won’t be pushed around anymore.
Image: Coffs Coast Advocate