Happy Tigers get their man as Potter embraced by stars
Top of the list … Mick Potter is unveiled as Tigers coach yesterday after a long search that ended with their first choice. Photo: Brendan Esposito
SENIOR Wests Tigers players have endorsed the appointment of Mick Potter as the club's new coach, with Benji Marshall, Robbie Farah and Braith Anasta among the first to pass on their congratulations to him.
Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys sent out a group text message to all of the club's players before Potter was announced as the new coach yesterday, and he said Marshall, Farah and Anasta had replied immediately.
''There have subsequently been others but Robbie, Benji and Braith were the first three out of the box to say what great news it was, to congratulate Mick on the appointment and to say how much they were looking forward to working with him,'' Humphreys said.
"Robbie is a quality player and we want him to stay at the Wests Tigers for the rest of his career" ... Wests Tigers new coach Mick Potter. Photo: Getty Images
''Robbie is overseas, otherwise he would have been here, and Braith is also away on his honeymoon.''
Humphreys told a press conference to unveil Potter that the former Catalans, St Helens and Bradford coach was the Tigers' first choice to replace Tim Sheens, and the Herald understands that officials virtually settled on him after his first interview.
Potter was the first candidate interviewed for the job, and the Tigers went through the process with others, but none impressed as much as the two-time premiership-winning fullback and dual Dally M player of the year winner.
Despite having changed clubs three times in seven years in Super League, the Tigers found no one with anything but positive things to say about Potter.
A final decision was made by the Tigers board on Tuesday night, and after accepting a two-year deal with the club, he began work yesterday.
Before doing so, the 49-year-old advised new Sydney Roosters coach Trent Robinson that he was no longer available to coach the club's under-20s team next season.
''I am very happy to be here, there's not many jobs like this,'' he said. ''I have served a long apprenticeship and I think I am ready.''
While Potter begins preparations for the players' return to training on November 5, Sheens's future remains unclear, and Humphreys revealed he had been offered a new role overseeing the club's development programs.
Sheens is away on holidays, and has not yet advised the club if he will accept the position, but if he did, Potter said he would have no trouble working with the Kangaroos coach.
''I will do whatever is required by the club, and Tim's a nice guy as I am, so I don't see any problems,'' Potter said. ''Tim's longevity in the game just shows what a great coach he has been, and he is is still the Australian coach and doing a great job there. I am sure I will speak to him in the next couple of weeks.''
As he left Concord Oval after yesterday afternoon's press conference, Potter took a DVD collection of the team's performances last season.
However, he said he didn't envisage any great change to the Tigers's playing style next year.
''I bring a discipline that I think works, and I have got a good rapport with players, and I think that I bring the best out in players,'' Potter said. ''We will play to our strengths so if our strength is moving the ball, we will move the ball. If our strength is getting forward through the middle, we will get forward through the middle. I'm really looking forward to working with some senior players like Braith Anasta and Robbie Farah and Benji.''
In other news, Westerns Suburbs Magpies and Balmain will no longer field teams in the NSW Cup next season, with a combined Wests Tigers side entering next year's 13-team competition.
And Roosters star Joseph ''BJ'' Leilua was given a one-year good behaviour bond after a court found him guilty of sending naked photos of his ex-girlfriend after a confrontation with her at a southern suburbs hotel in May.
No conviction was recorded, and the court dismissed six of seven charges against him at the Downing Centre Criminal Court yesterday.
Magistrate Carolyn Barkell found Leilua guilty of using a smartphone in an offensive manner after an incident involving Cee-Jay Silbery at the Allawah Hotel early on May 26.
FIVE THINGS FOR POTTER TO WORK ON AT THE TIGERS
1. Improving the team's defence.
Potter made mention of the Tigers' defensive statistics at yesterday's press conference, and they make damning reading. While the Tigers were the sixth-best attacking team in the NRL last season, they ranked 12th defensively after conceding 551 points at an average of 23 points per game. The Tigers conceded 22 points or more in 11 of the their 13 losses. In addition, the Tigers' defence was broken more times than any other team, with opposition sides making 144 line breaks - or six per match - against them.
2. Build a greater team ethic.
Perhaps it was the massive injury toll, the constant positional changes or players under pressure simply trying too hard, but at times towards the end of the season the Tigers looked more like a group of individuals than a team. Potter indicated several times yesterday that he would develop a playing style to suit the team rather than individual stars. '''It's a team game and to get the best out of everyone there might be some subtle changes,'' he said.
3. Re-sign Robbie Farah.
The Tigers skipper is off contract next season and with rival clubs able to talk to Farah from November 1, re-signing the NSW hooker is a priority. ''Robbie is a quality player and we want him to stay at the Wests Tigers for the rest of his career,'' Potter said.
4. Determine Benji Marshall's best spot.
After the Tigers signed Braith Anasta, it was suggested that Marshall's future lay at halfback, and he was moved to the role midway through the season. But while Marshall led the NRL for try assists (30), the Tigers didn't seem as potent with him at No.7. Asked about Marshall, Potter said: ''If you look at some things that he does, he creates space for other people and he creates space for himself … and I don't want to stifle that.''
5. Cultivate the club's junior talent.
With the departures of Gareth Ellis, Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington, and the success of the Tigers in the under-20s and the NSW Cup, one of Potter's tasks will be to bring through younger players.