Earlier in 2015 this writer defended Jason Taylor, the young Wests Tigers and their style of play.
It was a story published after a 22-12 loss to the Newcastle Knights.
That Sunday afternoon, the Tigers punched their way through the middle for eighty retched minutes, kicked high and prayed for Newcastle errors. It was hard to watch and eventually the Tigers went down. It was obvious Wests were trying to defend their way to the backend of the game and bank on a big play to get themselves over the line.
It didn’t happen.
Defence has been a key to the Tigers all year according to Taylor. If they can defend, the attack will come. But unfortunately, they’ve got it all wrong, as has yours truly.
Wests’ defensive efforts yesterday were NSW Cup level at times. They fell off tackles, slid when they should have pressed and arm grabbed when they should have been using their shoulders. Was this really a team that had put all their efforts into becoming a defensive unit of note?
Brisbane looked like men against a team of Under 20’s the way they shot out a 26-0 lead in the first-half. There were flashes of brilliance from Mitchell Moses, Luke Brooks and James Tedesco. It was enough evidence to suggest that these young Tigers are fighting every urge in their body just to play out Taylor’s plan.
It’s fast getting to the point where this plan is going to mentally scar these kids rather than steel them.
After nineteen rounds, it’s time to let these boys play footy before it’s too late for Taylor. Defence isn’t going to win the Tigers a title in 2015 but this same defence could very easily hand them their first ever wooden spoon.
Their attack on the other hand, could save them from making history.
What’s wrong with winning 40-36?
It worked for Benji Marshall and the 2005 Tigers didn’t it?
Tedesco was again brilliant for the struggling Tigers and proved a threat for the entire eighty minutes. At one point, after pulling in a Brisbane bomb, Tedesco flicked to a flying Kevin Naiqama in traffic who scampered away before setting up Moses for the 53rd minute try. It came after back-to-back tries for Wests to start the second half.
Manaia Cherrington came on and immediately changed the momentum and speed of the visitors. On Brisbane’s line, Cherrington skipped out of dummy half and found a charging Ava Seumanufagai before crossing for his own try five minutes later.
With the scores back at 26-16, Taylor suddenly replaced the livewire with starting hooker Dene Halatau. It immediately altered the momentum.
“In the second half we played with some more passing along with the control and I thought what turned the game was a last play when we ran the ball and got tackled 40 metres out from their line,” Taylor said post-match.
“Every time we gave the Broncos the ball deep in their half, it made it so much easier for us to defend them and that was the way we were going to get back in the game.
“Ben Hunt early in the game, yeah he’s elusive but we had to get him. We had to get him.
“We had three or four guys have a go at him and we just didn’t make that tackle and some of those key tackles that had to be made really turned the screws on us in relation to the scoreboard.”
Whether Taylor wants to admit it or not, he doesn’t have a team that can fulfill the game plan he wants.
A team at this stage of its development must play to their strengths and the Tigers’ strengths are Tedesco, the raw enthusiasm of Brooks and Moses and the power of Martin Taupau. Instead they’re playing middle-third percentage rugby league and relying on a non-existent defensive mindset. Not to mention the team is riddled with players that are simply not up to scratch or are passed their best.
Chris Lawrence, Keith Galloway, Pat Richards and Halatau try hard but they’re struggling while Kyle Lovett, Kevin Naiqama and Nathan Milone are targets every time the opposition gets the ball.
Why wouldn’t you give the green light to Tedesco and company and let them play football?
There’s still time for Taylor. To save season 2015 and his job.
Video Source: NRL Hub