Mark Levy is the host of 2GB’s Wide World of Sports radio show. Tune in from 6pm-7pm, Monday to Thursday!
The recent conga line of NRL coaches who have attempted to turn the Tigers into a premiership force have all ended up failing, but it’s through no fault of their own; the finger should instead be pointed at the executive team and the board. It’s always the coach who ends up fighting for his future according to a report on the back page of the paper, so why not the people running the club?
If it were any other business, serious questions would be asked by the stakeholders given the joint-venture has been forced to pay out players and coaches who’ve been sacked, moved on or jumped ship.
Ivan Cleary wanted everyone to board the bus at Wests Tigers during his time as coach, but it wasn’t long before he drove it out to Penrith where he took the Panthers to a grand final appearance and the mountain men remain unbeaten in 2021.
Maguire was the perfect fit to take over, having guided Wigan Warriors to Super League and Challenge Cup victories in England. The man affectionately known as ‘Madge’ also enjoyed success at the South Sydney Rabbitohs who appeared in multiple finals series before securing an elusive premiership in 2014.
Maguire inherited a dog’s breakfast of a playing roster and salary cap in 2019 and it was always going to take some time to work his magic with some tough decisions.
“It’s taken some time to build the squad, so it becomes a long-term successful club and I’ve brought with me the lessons I’ve learnt at the other clubs and yes, it does take time.” Maguire told 2GB’s WWOS Radio.
“I’ve got a young spine at the moment, in saying that, I’ve got a number nine (Jake Simpkin) who’s two games into his NRL career and I’ve got a young fullback who’s come on board in Daine Laurie and they are brilliant kids and could be the next superstars of the game, well that’s what we’re going to work hard to create.”
You’ll keep hearing about his 51 games in charge, winning just 19 at a rate of 37.3 per cent, but that’s unfair given it’s taken him 12 months to make the necessary changes. If the Wests Tigers were expecting immediate results and premierships, they’d have more luck buying a lottery ticket.
Shane Flanagan and John Morris are the names being mentioned as possible replacements if Maguire falls on his sword and as much as I respect them both, I doubt anything will change. Flanno has the runs on the board and guided the Cronulla Sharks to a maiden premiership, but is there any need to recruit another experienced mentor when they’ve already got one calling the shots?
Morris was thrown in the deep end at the Sharks and excelled in the Sutherland Shire, but is a rookie coach who played 72 games for Wests Tigers the best option?
I can’t wrap my head around the criticism being levelled at Michael Maguire when the anger and frustration should be directed at the players and the people running the joint. If you want to know what’s wrong with the club, it might be worth picking up the phone and asking Tim Sheens, Jason Taylor, Mick Potter, Ivan Cleary, Mitch Moses, Josh Addo-Carr, Blake Austin, James Tedesco and Benji Marshall. They’re just some of the names who were chewed up and spat out by Wests Tigers.
Benji’s move to the South Sydney Rabbitohs proved a masterstroke by coach Wayne Bennett and I don’t want to take anything away from the Kiwi international, however it’s very easy to shine in a good football team that’s winning games.
Luke Brooks has been left to shoulder the blame as the most experienced player in the team and Maguire is backing his playmaker by persisting with him at halfback.
Legends blame Tigers for Brooks mess
“He’s our number seven and that’s where he’s going to stay and I guess there’s a lot of noise about every number seven when teams aren’t going well,” Maguire said.
“Luke Brooks can’t make all the tackles and we’ve got to become a stronger defensive team to allow better field position to allow Brooksy to produce his craft. Is there areas in his game that he’s looking at? Yes, and that’s a work in progress.”
Wests Tigers have five winnable games over the coming weeks when they tackle St George Illawarra, Gold Coast, Newcastle, Warriors and the Dragons for a second time. If they string a few wins together, all of a sudden Madge is a genius.
Michael Maguire is one of the most decent and determined people I’ve ever met in my time covering rugby league and if there’s one man who can solve the puzzle for the Wests Tigers, it’s the current coach. He’s determined to “deliver what everyone’s after and that’s a strong team that turns up week in and week out, as for the noise, I guess that’s part of the game.”
If Wests Tigers want to eliminate the noise, chairman Lee Hagipantelis and CEO Justin Pascoe should front the media today and rubbish the reports of crisis meetings and talk of Maguire becoming the latest coach to be sacked. It’s time the board stands in solidarity with their embattled coach by handing him the keys to the bus that’s been parked at the mechanic since the 2005 grand final.
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