Rugby League

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The truth about the Wests Tigers and Mick Potter is out there, really out there

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On Monday, I hit the phones. As a young, conscientious reporter, I strode forth into the day in the pursuit of truth and justice, and whatever else was out there in relation to the Wests Tigers.

I spoke to as many people as I could: players, past and present; management; board members, and those on either side of the Balmain-Wests divide.

Of course, I promised them I would never take the journalistic lead of Triple M’s Gorden Tallis and give any of them up – naughty, Gordie, naughty – but unfortunately the process left me with a handful of dots that no one can join.

I started with the tenacity of Woodward and Bernstein ... and ended as exhausted and frazzled as Hunter S. Thompson as the sun set on the Kentucky Derby.

Club officials said coach Mick Potter has their full support; no one is trying to sack him; this is nothing more than a rampant rugby league media beating a story to within an inch of its life.


Those closer to the coach said it is very simple: this is an assassination of a good man who has been undermined from the moment he walked into the steaming mess that the joint venture has been for two years or so.

There is an old saying in the AFL that the Richmond Tigers eat their own. The Wests Tigers may as well have a drive-through off Parramatta Road.

Wade through the muck and the bullshit and there is something undeniable: there is a concerted push to have Potter removed, which is typical of rugby league's trigger-happy, results-driven, save-your-own-arse attitude. 

Tallis breached a major confidence – journalistically, at least – on radio on Sunday when he blurted out that captain Robbie Farah had told him he didn’t rate Potter. He let the cat out of the bag when it comes to the players’ assessment of their coach.

Farah denies any backstabbing, and he is now certainly fearful that blood appears to be on his hands. He was emotional before and after the loss to the Dragons on Sunday because the belief is he is trying to screw the coach.

Typically of Potter, he took Farah aside and tried to calm him, with the minor matter of a footy game about to start.

Farah is brutally honest. He is very headstrong. Until six weeks ago, Potter thought he had his support. Now, he looks like the one trying to take down the coach, when there are other factions angling for the same result.

It is hardly breaking news that some players do not want Potter beyond this year. They consider him a good man, but wonder if he is the coach to take them to a premiership. The younger players wonder if he is the coach to make them better.

The bottom line is, right now, he is their coach; respect his authority.

Potter’s personality is often described as “dry”, even if those close to him say he is one of the funniest humans you will meet.

When player power helped push out Tim Sheens in late 2012, Potter put his squad through one of the most gruelling pre-seasons many of them had endured.

The message was clear: Farah and Benji Marshall don’t run this team, I do. Some didn’t like it; others left. Marshall went as far as another country and code.

Amid calls for his head for most of the year, Potter managed to navigate the piranhas and then softened his approach heading into this season.

With the Marshall albatross no longer around his neck, and with a gun halfback in Luke Brooks running the side alongside Farah, there has been much promise. On many counts, much has been delivered.

He has done all this despite the stench of a report by his former coach, Brian Smith, that did not make any recommendations about the coach's tenure, even if many individuals at the Tigers thought otherwise.

He has done this despite others on his coaching staff – assistants Todd Payten and David Kidwell – salivating at the thought of having his job.

He has done this despite thinking he has a job one minute, and is about to be speared the next.

At the start of last week, Potter seemed certain to receive a one-year extension of his contract. At the end of last week, the board had apparently backflipped, with Kidwell set to receive the nod in preference to an ambitious Payten, whose designs on the top job might just ensure he does not get anywhere near it.

At the end of Sunday's game, those closest to Potter considered him a dead man walking. At the end of Sunday, he had received a stay of execution.

If you think you are confused trying to work out what is happening at the Tigers, try to imagine being the one with the most to lose.