For whatever reason, much has been made of Wests Tigers assembling a strong squad (criticism makes absolutely no sense to me). Tigers fans should know as well as anyone how important a strong squad is. How many times has one injury to Farah, Marshall, Ellis or Tedesco been the season defining moment?
As stated previously, the current Tigers side looks a lot like Parramatta of 2009-2014. It’s great having a top 10 player at fullback, but it means little if the rest of the squad isn’t up to standard (as shown at WT in 2015-2017). You’re relying on one player having a career best year, every year, and that’s just for you to be competitive!
With respect, most weeks the players named in jerseys 18-21 for WT aren’t NRL standard. Well, let’s be honest, a good chunk of the 17 that take the field aren’t NRL standard at top 8 clubs. The state cup team is awful and their ladder position reflects that.
Thankfully, most of the club’s first grade and reserve grade teams are off contract and will BOTH undergo massive roster overhauls for 2018. Fans seem to think every signing is on $500,000 a year and has been signed to play 24 NRL games a year.
Fans question why players like Kyle Lovett are in first grade. Well, he is in first grade because he’s the best depth the club has.
Comments from fans regarding new signings have been quite funny. “Another reserve grader”….”We’ve signed 3 new backs now, that’s too many”…”Why did we give McIlwrick a new deal if he won’t be playing big minutes in first grade? What a waste!”…
It’s called established depth. Yes, it’s foreign to WT fans but that’s because the club has NEVER had established depth before.
From Round 1 2013 to now, WT have called on 49 new players, whether they be new signings or kids coming through the club’s system. Of those 49, a staggering 28 were making their NRL debut. Add in the fact that 19 of those 28 were aged 21 or younger.
Basically, WT have relied on a kid with no NRL experience stepping up every time there has been an injury or suspension. That is not established depth and that is not a practice that will lead to positive results.
Due to never addressing the need for established depth, the club and fans are always looking for the next 19 year old to throw into first grade and see if he sinks or swims. It’s this practice that, in my opinion, has led to the once respected WT pathway breaking down. A lot of kids don’t develop while at the club and it’s usually because they’re either thrown in way too early, or given a free ride into first grade on excellent money because they’re talented local kids.
This has also led to a mentally weak culture at the club. As soon as any player is questioned, told they’ll have to improve to gain a new contract or told that they are underperforming, they cry foul to the media and throw the toys out of the cot (as shown by the attitude of Tedesco, Moses and Woods).
This also reflects onfield performance. The Tigers have always been great when the opposition lets them be great. As soon as they are met with any form of resistance, they go to water. We aren’t just talking about the team of 2017, we’re talking about EVERY WT team over the years.
That’s not to say it’s the player’s fault, but it’s something that has happened for a number of years. Even players who were awful while at the club or always injured seem to feel entitled and have zero respect for the club that gave them the opportunity.
WT always end up with players who think they are better than they are, who think they deserve more money than they are making. Not surprisingly, they are usually all juniors too. From Teo to Tedesco.
WT having entitled players? Why? How? Who? Entitled players from a team that never leaves the bottom 4? Almost makes you laugh…
So what does this have to do with established depth? Established depth can go a long way to changing this culture as well as improving results. Having guys competing for the same spot and being made to earn their position in first grade, getting that first grade jersey after earning it and risk losing it if you get complacent…it all adds up.
Established depth has played a key role in Ivan Cleary’s previous coaching jobs. Wherever Ivan is, the state cup teams are always strong. Elijah Taylor made that point when Cleary first took the Tigers job. After being with Ivan at both the Warriors and the Panthers, ET said Cleary’s strength was that he “built a strong club”.
Local juniors/debutants should complement the established roster, not the other way round. Cronulla of 2016 is an example of one of those two, the Tigers are an example of the other. Guess which one is which….
If you don’t like the club building a strong squad that’s 30 players deep, probably block your ears and cover your eyes until Round 1 next year….there’s more to come.