OPINION

Wests Tigers made the right call backing Michael Maguire | NRL

STAND FIRM: Laurie Daley says to dump Michael Maguire and change coaches again would have been lunacy. Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images
STAND FIRM: Laurie Daley says to dump Michael Maguire and change coaches again would have been lunacy. Photo: Albert Perez/Getty Images

Wests Tigers haven't got a whole lot right this season but thankfully, when it came to their biggest decision of the year this week, they pulled the right rein.

Ending all the speculation over the future of coach Michael Maguire by coming out publicly and backing him for another 12 months was the correct call.

Obviously, the way the process has been handled hasn't been great with all the media leaks and the uncertainty that's created. You can certainly ask questions about their professionalism in that regard. But in my opinion, the decision reached is the right one.

This is a club that has changed its coach and altered direction so many times in recent years to no avail that to do it again would have been lunacy. Why not take a deep breath, show some faith and loyalty, back your judgment and let Madge finish what he started.

If, at the end of that, the results are still not there, the improvement you are seeking is still not there, then have the tough conversations and make the change if you need to, knowing you have given the bloke every opportunity to turn things around and succeed.

Before a ball was kicked this season, the club thought Maguire was the man for the job and re-signed him for another two years. It's been a challenging period for him because of their roster and trying to get the salary cap in order and when it's out of whack like it has been, there's no overnight fix. But the bottom line is the bloke is a premiership-winning coach, so we all know he's got it in him to be very successful and he's got Tim Sheens coming in to act as a sounding board and oversee everything. He deserves some extra time.

The key now that the call has been made is to not waver next year when the pressure is on. Obviously, it's difficult because the Tigers have a lot of supporters and like everyone, they crave success. But when the heat comes, and there will be times when it does next season, the club has to stand firm and ride it out.

Show some leadership and don't opt for the easy way out. The same goes with the Tigers players. I'm always critical of playing groups that don't take responsibility and ownership when things aren't happening for the team. The easy out for them is to wash their hands of it and blame it all on the coach. If the Tigers are to dig themselves out of the hole they are currently in, it will take everyone in the joint to get on board the bus together and start heading it in the right direction.

Finals fear

Match officials, whether it be referees or linesmen, are always going to make mistakes. What we can't afford is the 'howler' that may decide the outcome of a big game. That's my biggest fear as we get to the pointy end of the season.

We just want the best team on the day to win. Did the Eels cop some tough calls last weekend? Yes, they did. Did any of them cost the Eels the game? We will never know for sure but what we do know is they had enough chances to still win but came up just short.

I don't envy the job the refs have. These days, they not only have to get every little decision right, but they also have to make tough judgment calls on whether players are genuinely hurt or simply lying down in a bid to draw penalties. Players lying down and feigning injury has become one of the biggest blights on our game and the sooner the NRL steps in and takes action, the better.

The games

RABBITOHS v EAGLES

I'm leaning ever so slightly towards Souths but it will be tight and it won't surprise me if Manly get through. I think the Wayne Bennett influence will be a real factor. As a coach, he just has a proven record with his teams in big matches. But there is also the fact he won't be at the club next season and you can bet your life his players will be giving it that tiny bit more for him.

Manly's biggest strength is potentially their biggest weakness. The threat fullback Tom Trbojevic provides is enormous, as is his influence on the rest of his teammates. He was unstoppable at times against the Roosters last weekend. But as the Storm showed against the Eagles a couple of weeks ago, if you win the field position battle and keep Turbo penned in with concentrated defence, you can shut the entire Manly side down.

It will be interesting to see how Des Hasler plays this. Does he give Turbo his usual licence to go out and try and wreak havoc or does he tactically use him a little differently as a decoy at times in a bid to have the Souths' defence second guessing themselves.

If Souths defend like they did against Penrith a fortnight ago and at least break even in the forward battle, their lethal left edge, with Cody Walker pulling the strings, will be hard to stop. My tip: Rabbitohs

STORM v PANTHERS

The Panthers are busted after their bruising local derby win over the Eels but I still think they are a great chance here. While I can't tip against the Storm, I'm not convinced they are the specials many people are suggesting.

I still think the Panthers' grand final loss last season will be a huge motivating factor and if they can tweak their attack a little and re-discover the try-scoring ability that has deserted them in recent weeks, they will pose a major threat.

In saying that, Melbourne are a great side, will be fresh after the week off and don't just have one or two threats - they have them at dummy half in Smith and Grant, on both sides of the ruck, with Hughes and Munster, and at fullback with Papenhuyzen.

They will come out fast and try to get on the front foot and the young Panthers will have to go with them. One factor that will suit Nathan Cleary and his boys is it is a day game and they are predicting it to be hot. That will favour Penrith. My tip: Storm