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

Date

Chief Sports Writer, The Sydney Morning Herald

View more articles from Andrew Webster

Captain and coach ... Robbie Farah and Mick Potter at Sunday's press conference.

Captain and coach ... Robbie Farah and Mick Potter at Sunday's press conference.

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.

19 comments so far

  • OF COURSE the players and co didn't have a hand in the sacking of Tim Sheens and of course IT HASNT happened again has it???...NO NO NO. of course not. The players run that club.

    Commenter
    Mike
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 28, 2014, 3:45PM
    • Robbie continually says that Mick has the full support of the players. Not once has Robbie said that Mick has his full support. If Robbie Farah is genuinely supporting his coach come right out and say it instead of mincing words.

      Commenter
      PJ
      Location
      Helensburgh
      Date and time
      July 28, 2014, 4:30PM
      • He did, in yesterday's post match conference.

        Commenter
        alto
        Date and time
        July 28, 2014, 8:21PM
    • Do the board have any consensus?

      I know where my tigerfaith is failing. With the board whom seem to be constantly changing their mind and blaming others when it doesn't work or they haven't given things a long enough chance.

      Commenter
      Wizzer
      Location
      Sydney
      Date and time
      July 28, 2014, 4:32PM
      • Another fine mess by a dysfunctional board and whereby the players run the coach.As great a player as Robbie F is, if he's not happy why doesnt he do a Benji and have a shot at Union, that worked out well.
        This club is amushing its own future, such a shame as they've got some great young talent coming through, but dont expect them to stay with this rabble.

        Commenter
        Tiger Shark
        Location
        Somewhere off Ballast Point NSW
        Date and time
        July 28, 2014, 5:15PM
        • Dear Tiger Shark, you dont know how right you are in saying that "This club is ambushing its own future". There is a massive story doing the rounds that the reason the NRL bailed out Balmain was so that it could get control of the Board of the Tigers and then they will move the club to Perth! This current mess is just giving the NRL more ammunition to instigate its grubby little plan. And certain power clubs like the Bulldogs (who have friends in high places) will get the fantastic Wests juniors. Disgraceful. But Wests hopeless management and self-important playing group are helping the NRL destroy this club. Wake up and just play football you self-absorbed overpaid pretenders! Poor Mick Potter, and the fans, deserve much better.

          Commenter
          E White
          Location
          Paddington
          Date and time
          July 28, 2014, 6:56PM
      • It is no coincidence that the really great sporting clubs in Australia (read Sea Eagles, Storm, Swans, Hawthorn, Roar and Victory) have one thing in common...........stability. They stay at or near the top year after year and don't panic or take knee jerk reactions when the results aren't there on the field. The other thing they have in common is strong administrations who NEVER allow players to run the roost. Consecutive Wests Tigers administration have failed these two fundamental criteria for success so what is happening there now should not surprise any of us.

        Commenter
        Buddha
        Location
        Hunters Hill
        Date and time
        July 28, 2014, 5:24PM
        • I take your point Buddha, but since when has Manly been a stable club?

          Members of the board have taken each other to court and have AVOs out on each other!

          But yeah, I agree, club stability goes a long way towards making a successful football team.

          Commenter
          Pete75
          Location
          Perff
          Date and time
          July 28, 2014, 6:16PM
        • so Buddha, you dont follow league then?? you have clearly missed the daily chatter about the sea eagles internal problems starting at the board level, which has some members taking out AVO's against others.. then there are of course the player issues, Watmough has a media ban slapped on him so he cant live up to the ch9 deal he has, Kieran Foran has admitted on TV there are issues at the club, Glen Stewart didnt get an offer for next year, Brett wants out, Matai has asked for a release and so on and so on.. but yeah, theyre stable.

          honestly, if the Sea Eagles are a great sporting club in Aust, it's not coz of their stability, its in spite of it..

          Commenter
          fantasy land
          Date and time
          July 28, 2014, 6:46PM
        • Pretty sure you know very little about the last decade or so at Manly if you think words like "stability" and "strong administration" are applicable.

          Commenter
          Mostly Harmless
          Location
          Northern Beaches
          Date and time
          July 28, 2014, 7:13PM

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