It was the most predictable story heading into the 2015 season. At what point would we see the headline “Taylor vs Farah”?
To say that the Wests Tigers are a badly run club is an understatement. They are a basketcase. Now to be fair to the Wests Tigers, they have plenty of company. Most clubs in the NRL are terribly run. There may only be two or three clubs that you could say are well run. So don’t fall into the mistake of thinking I am picking on the Wests Tigers here, they are not alone when it comes to the issues they create for themselves.
When the Wests Tigers brought in Jason Taylor as the clubs new head coach I felt that it was a very good move. Taylor has experience when it comes to taking over a club that finds itself in a bad position and transforming them into something more. At South Sydney Taylor turned a bottom of the ladder Rabbitohs team into a side that actually looked ok. He just didn’t get to finish the job. More importantly, when the Rabbitohs were taken over by John Lang the following season, the team got worse.
Jason Taylor isn’t an idiot. He would have come into the Wests Tigers coaching role with his eyes wide open and knowing that sooner or later he was going to have to make the tough decision that no one before him was willing to make.
The Wests Tigers have a core of very young stars who look like they might grow into a premiership force one day. The important job for the club is to keep them all together, keep them happy, and surround them with the role players they need to take that next step in a few years time.
The first job is done, the Tigers have all of their young stars of the future locked up to decent sized deals. The club has effectively chosen what track it wants to go down and committed entirely to a future that includes the likes of Tedesco, Brooks, Moses, Woods and the like. There is just one issue the club couldn’t look past…
Robbie Farah is the highest paid player on the Wests Tigers roster. He is the clubs captain, and he is 31 years old. When you are looking to hand over the reigns of your club to the next generation, when you are looking to build for the future, and when you need salary cap space to retain your young stars and build a team around them that will peak at the right time, you find yourself having to make the tough choice the Tigers made in letting Farah go.
If the Wests Tigers youngsters found themselves ready to be a premiership threat in 3 years time, Robbie Farah will be 34 years old. It just doesn’t work. If you are building for the future, you have to go all in.
Jason Taylor was brought in to take control of a rudderless ship and give them some direction. He has a plan, he has a goal he is aiming for. Only time will tell if he is getting it right, but it is far better for a club to have a plan in place rather than just tread water and hope for the best.
Now, here is the real issue Jason Taylor faces…
Taylor had to step up and be the public face of the Wests Tigers decision to move Robbie Farah on. That shouldn’t have been the case. Because the Wests Tigers lack strong management, they didn’t provide a united front when it came time to move on their longest serving player.
Unfortunately, this is something we see a lot of in the NRL. Clubs boards and CEO’s take a step back and allow coaches to take the heat all the time. Coaches get sacked for bad decisions….club boards and CEO’s remain immune. It disgusts me.
Taylor will know he is on his own through all of this. As I wrote earlier, the bloke isn’t an idiot. It would have been the easiest thing in the world for him not to confront this issue, one that has been hanging over the Wests Tigers for a long time now. Taylor was right onto it. He was ready to cop the backlash and he is ready to live and die by the clubs results over the next few years.
If Taylor gets this wrong, that is pretty much the end of his NRL coaching career. No one needs this to work out more than Jason Taylor.
As for Farah, it is always unfortunate when a player doesn’t get a chance to finish his entire career playing for one club. It happens. That is why you can look back over the history of the modern game and find so few players who played their entire career at one club.
The Wests Tigers will no doubt have to carry a portion of Farah’s salary next season, and Farah won’t lose a single cent when he finds a new club to join. Robbie Farah will be ok, and the Wests Tigers will be able to be fully focused on what they hope is a bright future ahead of them.
It wasn’t that long ago that the very same club moved on established players in the face of negative sentiment from their fan base. Building a future around younger stars is always a big change for a club. Robbie Farah was able to stay at the Wests Tigers and win a premiership because of tough decisions like the one he is now a part of.
That’s Rugby League…