Wests Tigers great Steve Roach has urged his former side to overhaul its roster and recruit experienced players in a bid to climb off the bottom of the ladder.
The Tigers are on track to pick up the wooden spoon and appear lost for answers as to where any improvement will come from following another dismal season.
Club legend Benji Marshall will serve under Tim Sheens for two seasons as part of a coaching succession plan in the hope some of their magic dust from their 2005 premiership win will rub off on the current playing group.
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The Tigers are playing uninspired football at the moment and Roach believes their first priority should be recruiting and retaining senior players.
David Nofoaluma is the Tigers’ all-time leading try scorer but was languishing in reserve grade for much of the season, opening the door for the Melbourne Storm to snap him up for the remainder of the year on a loan deal.
The winger is now in strong form for the Storm, while the Tigers’ decision to offload forward Luciano Leilua to the Cowboys has also left Roach scratching his head.
“He (Nofoaluma) was playing reserve grade at the Tigers,” the Fox League commentator told news.com.au
“They (the Storm) have obviously seen something good in him. I don’t know the reasoning why he was playing a lot of the season in reserve grade.
“Even Luciano Leilua, him and Nofolauma were close to our best players and we’ve let them go. I don’t really get it. It must have something to do with salary cap. I don’t understand why.
“I would imagine that they’re two of our best players and they’re playing for other clubs and playing well now.”
NSW State of Origin coach Brad Fittler isn’t a fan of the NRL’s loan system and believes Nofoaluma needs to produce his best football when he returns to the Tigers.
“I don’t like the idea — it just muddies the water straight away already,” Fittler said on Channel 9.
“There’s a few of these players, (Oliver) Gildart who went to the Roosters, and obviously Nofoaluma. And they’re both saying ‘we’d love to stay’ and now they’ve got to go back to the club. This was always going to happen.”
“The idea is for him to come back with his experience, and be a leader,” Fittler said of Nofoaluma.
“Two years ago he was talking about getting on our bus, and chanting Tigers. All of a sudden, it’s got too hard for him.
“He should be taking their training principles and bringing them and back and go ‘this is what we should accept, and what we shouldn’t accept.’ It’s a good time for him to come back and be a leader – get on the bus Nofa!”
Meanwhile, Roach believes James Tamou’s best football is behind him and the captain shouldn’t receive a deal for next season.
“I don’t know whether there’s a deal for him at the Tigers but it’s pretty hard,” he said.
“You’ve got to have some good mates if they think you’re at the end of your career and they don’t give you a tap on the shoulder.
“I don’t know if he wants to keep playing but I don’t think he’s set the world on fire this year with the Tigers.”
“I suppose they’ve been pretty kind to him to give him that opportunity to finish of his career in his last game,” Roach said of Tamou’s one-match suspension for his foul-mouthed referee spray.
Cronulla forward Andrew Fifita is finishing up at the Sharks this year but Roach isn’t a fan of the idea of Fifita returning to the Tigers, the club where he started his career.
“No, not really,” he said when asked if he’d like to see Fifita play for the Tigers again.
“He’s been a great player scoring that try in the Grand Final for the Sharks. I don’t think any other forward in the history of the game has scored that.
“He’s been playing sparing minutes this season. I don’t know whether I’d go down that road if I was the Tigers, buying blokes at the end of their careers. I think they’ve got to rebuild. “You’ve got to be careful who you buy in the marketplace. You just don’t buy blokes for the sake of buying them because of nostalgia.
“Him and Tamou have been real good players — they’ve played for their country and Origin — but I think they might be nearing the end.”
Roach said Tigers fans should expect several more years of pain, with the arrival of the Dolphins in the NRL next year set to make the task of recruiting top-line players even harder.
“With another team coming into the comp, there’s another 30 or 40 players that dilute the opportunity for teams to get off the bottom of the premiership (ladder),” he said.
“By bringing new teams in, I don’t know how we’re going to strengthen the teams that we need to strengthen.
“It’s going to be hard for the Tigers now, getting the wooden spoon, to attract new players, especially when there’s a new team coming into the comp.”
“I’d go all out for some real experience. The problem is if you get the wooden spoon, why do people want to come to your club? I’d go all out for some top liners. The hard part is to get people to want to come there.
“If you look at the history of the game, you don’t get a lot of players out of pathways. I don’t really see a quick fix. I think we’re going to see a bit more pain before it turns around, if it ever does.”
The Wests Tigers take on St George Illawarra on Sunday at 1.40pm. The only place to watch the game is Fox League and Kayo.