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Shock departure of two favourite sons cuts me deep

Date

Benji Marshall

No reason to leave … popular winger Beau Ryan was shown the door, even though he was one of the Tigers' best players this season.

No reason to leave … popular winger Beau Ryan was shown the door, even though he was one of the Tigers' best players this season. Photo: Getty Images

About half an hour after Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan walked through my front door and told me they were moving to Cronulla, we were sitting in my lounge room. I had to walk out. I disappeared into the kitchen and lost it - tears and everything.

Beau had called me on Monday and said he wanted to come over. When Chris walked in with him, I knew something was up. I had heard the rumours about them leaving but had thought they were rubbish. Not any more. I was shocked. They ambushed me a bit because they knew how I was going to react. I didn't take it too well at first. There isn't a day when I don't speak to both of them.

It has been a difficult week. I haven't just lost two teammates; I've lost two of my best mates. That's the hardest part. You spend every day with your teammates and the reality suddenly hits that you'd be lucky to see some of them once a week. I have found it very hard to deal with this.

We went down to the Oaks at Neutral Bay to talk further, before we were joined by a couple of other boys. We tried not to talk about contracts; we just wanted to have a few quiet beers and support our mates, who have both been the heart and soul of our team for so long.

Chris and Beau have been the two most popular Tigers among the players. No doubt. When I think of the Tigers as a team, I think of Chris being the centre of it. He holds the record for most games at the club and if we decide to have lunch together, he makes all the calls to make it happen. You would not find a more passionate player on the field. He plays for everybody - and everybody plays for him.

Beau brings another dimension to the club. He brings supporters who might not follow rugby league but have seen him on television. He is such a marketable commodity and I can't understand why he would be allowed to leave. Aside from that, he was one of our best players this year. He would be by far the most improved player in the competition.

Take the emotion out of it, and there is still the fact that they were two of our best players this year. If this is the fall-out from having an unsuccessful season, I cannot comprehend how they have borne the brunt of it.

You don't support your club solely because they win or lose. You support it because of the culture or because your grandparents passed the support down to your parents, who passed it down to you.

The culture of the Tigers has been such a strong one, going back a long time. In my lifetime, it has come from the likes of Paul Sironen and Benny Elias. They passed on the culture to Mark O'Neill and John Skandalis, and those guys passed it onto our group. That's what this club is built on, and I feel that what happened during the week is against the culture of the club. That's why I say I am confused. The players are as confused as the supporters.

Those guys are irreplaceable on and off the field. I still can't get my head around how this has happened. And I still can't see how this could be considered the right thing to do.

Before I signed my latest contract with the club, I was given some guarantees; things I was told were going to happen but which never have. That said, I'm contracted for three more years. I intend to stay. But the club is in a predicament at the moment and I'd like it to be sorted out.

I'm just as passionate about Wests Tigers as our supporters are. And that is why I say all this. I've been there for 10 years. I couldn't picture myself playing for another club. But the culture of a club is important to me. And that is what I love about the club - it has always had such a great culture. I just feel the club is drifting away from that.

In a way, I feel sorry for guys like Braith Anasta and Eddy Pettybourne, who are joining us amid all the uncertainty. They would have been expecting to play under Tim Sheens; if it turns out that Tim is not the coach, I'm not sure what they would think. They probably have no idea what is going on. I must say I feel the same. The board has a decision to make but I'm in the dark about what's going on. I'm not sure what that decision will be.

17 comments so far

  • As a Tiger supporter the events of the last week have been gut wrenching. I can't even imagine how the players must be feeling. This is truly amateur hour. Beau Ryan is a great player - filling as wing, centre, fullback - and never lets us down. When a try is scored is scored he is the first to congratulate the scorer. His personality alone is worth a fortune. To treat Chris Heighington in this way is just unbelievable. His work rate is exceptionally high. Why would you let him go to replace him with Brett Kyte? What does Braith Anasta bring that Beau Ryan doesn't.
    10 years is a long time to be coaching a club and probably is time for Sheens to go. However, when management tells a player they are giving him a contract and then tell him -Ryan - they can't afford him and wont be going through with the deal there is something badly amiss with the management. This was apparent last year when Moltzen was told to look for another club and then the club refused - to his joy - to his release him. That was bad management and unfair both to the player and to St George.
    This brings us to the culture of the club that Benji mentions. Those in charge are destroying the culture. Shame.

    Commenter
    Rick
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    September 23, 2012, 11:27AM
    • When you have stars players - or a couple of them - in your team there is no money for other people. Bronx leaked juniors year after year until the big names retired leaving money spare to spend on support players. the tigers used to never spend all their salary cap to get out of debt and im surprised the player group stayed together as long as it did. this to me is a money issue - if you have to pay big dollars for benji and farrar you have to be cut throat with the other players contracts.

      Commenter
      grimotr
      Location
      inner west
      Date and time
      September 23, 2012, 12:04PM
      • This is why the tigers don't go the extra mile and win it. It's too much about the players and their mateship etc. Sometimes, change is needed. If you so desperately only ever want to play with your mates, go play park footy...

        Commenter
        Mark Sargent
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        September 23, 2012, 12:28PM
        • It won't be too long before the JV is terminated and the Magpies take on the license and base themselves in Leumeah. Financially, the Balmain side is going bust fast. The tension would be coming from the top and seasons such as the most recent one end up having negative impacts on the bottom line. The magpies won't carry the JV forever.

          Commenter
          axe
          Date and time
          September 23, 2012, 3:55PM
          • Or, the Tigers do to the Magpies, what Manly did to the Bears. Take all their money in the name of the JV, only to then terminate their license once they had their head slightly above water...... That's why clubs like the Tigers and Manly DO NOT deserve to be in pour competition.

            Commenter
            TommyP
            Date and time
            September 24, 2012, 10:50AM
        • Benji,

          your buddies still live in your city...you can still meet them whenever u wish. Stress less...

          Commenter
          jg
          Location
          Canberra
          Date and time
          September 23, 2012, 4:21PM
          • I'm a Sea Eagle supporter and my wife is a West Tigers supporter, so West Tigers are my 2nd team, and we are a bit disappointed for the Wests Tigers.

            Unfortunately it appears that the Balmain half of Wets Tigers are caught up the same way Souths were in 1971 when they almost went bankrupt with the building of a new leagues club. People involved with Souths let their club down at the time, resulting in Souths struggling for decades and now Balmain are facing a very similar problem with possible similar consequences.

            If the Tigers development is not sorted out very quickly, then like Souths in 1971, Wests Tigers will lose all their star players and have to rely on inexperienced players from their juniors. The Wests Tigers are starting to firm towards Wooden Spoon material in the years ahead.

            I agree that Beau Ryan was the Wests Tigers 3rd or 4th best player and in my opinion should have been selected for NSW ahead of one more talented but unreliable player from Parramatta.

            For you Benji, I think you should sit back and see what happens over the next month and then decide if you would be better off joining your mate Beau at Cronulla. You have those broken guarantees you could exercise. It will not be an easy decision. Good luck.

            Commenter
            RM Northern Beaches
            Date and time
            September 23, 2012, 4:40PM
            • Geez the Sharks are buying up big. They must have Melbourne's salary cap...

              Farrer to Para - maybe Beji should join him. All they will have to do is ditch Sandow to afford both of them lol.

              Commenter
              ajs_308
              Location
              NSW
              Date and time
              September 23, 2012, 4:58PM
              • Come on over to the Sharks Benji. I'm sure we could fit you in.

                Commenter
                brett
                Location
                Gunning
                Date and time
                September 23, 2012, 5:19PM
                • I am confused and upset about what is going on at Wests Tigers and hierarchy need to come clean. If hierarchy are going to replace Tim Sheens (the current coach of our national rugby league team) I hope that they bloody well have someone better waiting in the wings! Yes our season ended in a very disappointing fashion, but Sheens's best laid plans were largely cruelled by injuries. We have to improve the roster, that is a given, but let's blood our own for God's sake! With respect to Braith Anasta and Brett Kyte, why is the club coldly cutting adrift heart and soul players like Heighington and Ryan in order to superannuate imports who are past their prime? This is all very destabilising.

                  Commenter
                  Western Tiger
                  Location
                  Perth, WA
                  Date and time
                  September 23, 2012, 6:08PM

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