BESIEGED Wests Tigers captain Robbie Farah is so disillusioned at the debate over his State of Origin candidacy that he refused to talk after tendering one of the best individual performances of the season last night.
Labelled as unsuited to interstate football by club great Steve Roach and the centre of an ugly dispute between NSW coach Ricky Stuart and his Australia counterpart Tim Sheens, the Tigers hooker almost single-handedly lifted his team from 14-0 down to an overtime victory over Gold Coast at Skilled Park.
The 27-year-old not only kicked the winning field goal two minutes into golden point but scored his side's first try from nothing and charged down a kick which led to the match-tying penalty goal in the final minute of regulation time.
But Farah failed to front for the post-match media conference, where he was replaced by Benji Marshall. Asked outside the sheds by The Sun-Herald if he was commenting, Farah said: "Nah,mate."
"Too much has been said already and he wants to stay out of it," Sheens said. "He just wants to concentrate on his footy and leave everything else alone. He's had a tough week."
The fact that a star player has been goaded into silence is a compelling illustration of just how high emotions are running in the lead-up to the Blues' side being announced for Origin I on May 23. Sheens argued Farah should not have had to perform last night's near-miracle to get into the Blues' side while five-eighth Marshall was also a passionate advocate of his skipper.
"The only thing he could do was answer it on the field - tonight was his last chance," the coach said, "although I'd be disappointed if it had to be tonight to prove something. I think he's played pretty well all season and the City-Country a couple of weeks ago showed that. It's out of his hands now. If he gets his spot he gets it, if he doesn't, he doesn't. I think he's pretty much come to terms with that sort of thing over the years.
"Robbie plays 100 per cent every week. Obviously there's been a lot written this week. He wants to stay out of that, it's got nothing to do with him."
Marshall added: "If it's got anything to do with form or how someone's playing, he definitely put his hand up. He won that game for us tonight. [It was] off the back of everyone else's effort but when it comes down to it, he won that game. When the game's on the line, champions stand up and he definitely stood up tonight. He made plenty of tackles, took the ball up strong and to put that effort in at the end to make that charge-down and chase the ball down …
"He was on his hands and knees just before that. That's a sign of true character and as the captain I thought he led the way and gave us that penalty and then kicked the winning [field] goal."
Sheens and Marshall revealed they had practised the field goal, executed after an error from Titan Jordan Rankin, which won the game. "I didn't think it was going to work - but it did work," Marshall said.
It was a heart-breaking loss for the Titans who had secured one win in their previous 12 at home and fielded a makeshift halves combination of Aiden Sezer and Rankin. "It was cruel in the end," coach John Cartwright said. "With a minute to go, I thought we'd be sweet."
WESTS TIGERS 15 (B Ayshford R Farah tries B Marshall 3 goals R Farah field goal) bt GOLD COAST 14 (K Gordon D Mead tries A Sezer 3 goals) in golden-point extra time at Skilled Park. Referee: Gerard Sutton, Alan Shortall. Crowd: 14,254.