As I watched the Canberra Raiders absolutely thrash Wests Tigers on Saturday I started to things about the clubs recent history and how that would effect the decisions made about the future direction of the club.
Having won just 2 of their 8 games so far this season, the Tigers at times have shown glimpses of a side that may be heading in the right direction, only for everything to fall apart and look like this side is fundamentally broken and heading in the wrong direction.
So, who is at fault. In a culture that needs the instant gratification that comes from blaming one person for all of life’s problems, who at the Wests Tigers shoulders the blame for all the poor performances?
Now, before you start getting stuck in to Jason Taylor lets have a think back over the clubs recent history when it comes to blaming the coach.
Despite coaching the club to a Premiership in 2005, and having led the Tigers to 3rd and 4th place on the ladder the two seasons before the club decided to sack him, Tim Sheens was the problem at the Wests Tigers.
Sheens had the highest winning percentage in the history of the Wests Tigers club, a very humble 49%, however Sheens experience and history with the club was not enough to save him from the axe. Truth be told, the club probably could have used a change at the time, but it is interesting to note that Sheens term as the coach of the Wests Tigers didn’t end in complete failure.
In stepped Mick Potter. Now, I didn’t rate Potter as much of a coach before he joined the Tigers. His record in England was nothing to write home about, and winning every single title on offer in England is easy for any coach that with any sort of ability to lead a team. Potter stepped in during a very tumultuous time for the club that included issues at board level, issues surrounding the clubs finances, issues involving the financial viability of one of the clubs 50% owners, as well as being given a mandate to clean the clubs playing roster out that was never truly backed up by upper management.
Potter never really did much at the Wests Tigers as a coach, but he tried. In the end, he was sacked by the club, and all the issues that Tim Sheens had been facing were still there to be cleaned up by the next coach.
Into this mess stepped Jason Taylor, looking to resurrect his NRL coaching career.
Jason Taylor was told that he was to clean out the Wests Tigers playing roster and he would have the full support of the board in doing so. To his credit, Taylor was up front about the task that lay ahead of him and how the club would need to go through a few tough times on the field if there was to be any sort of long term benefit.
Taylor get a bits and pieces lineup whose best long term prospects were all extremely inexperienced and whose most expensive player came with a lot of influence.
Taylor stepped up to the plate. Despite the club losing one of its best forwards to the Manly Sea Eagles (Martin Taupa), Taylor had a plan for the clubs future and decided who needed to stay, and who needed to go. To his credit, he moved on a lot of old players who the club never should have been giving first grade starts to, and looked to trim as much salary cap fat out so that the club could reset and start building towards the future.
As we all know, that didn’t exactly go to plan.
So now we have a Wests Tigers lineup that has financial problems, one half of its ownership is all but extinct, they have a relatively inexperienced lineup that has most of their key players still just learning how to be first grade footballers, and not a great amount of wiggle room under the salary cap to make big improvements to the side.
The more things change, the more they stay the same…
Jason Taylor took this Wests Tigers coaching job knowing that it wasn’t all that attractive. He knew there would be a lot of tough times for the club on the field, as well as off the field, and he was willing to commit to the club and be the man who guided them through this thankless period in which he knew he would be the focus of negativity and pressure.
The club needs to stick by Jason Taylor. Let him do his job. Let him make the changes the club has needed for years. If the club sacks Taylor the next coach will have to start all over again, learn what needs to be done, and the job will still be there to be done.
The issues the Wests Tigers face right now are not Jason Taylor’s fault. He is just the bloke that is willing to try and fix them. He is trying to do all of this with not a great deal of support.
There are worse people Tigers fans could trust with this thankless task. The club should stand by Jason Taylor. He isn’t the problem, but he is working towards the solution.