The Tigers have been called out on their claims they are set to embark on an aggressive recruitment drive to turn the NRL cellar dwellers into contenders once again.
The Tigers have the longest finals drought in the NRL stretching back to 2012 and are staring down the barrel of two straight wooden spoons, despite Tim Sheens believing they can still play finals in 2023.
“The Tigers say they are about to embark on a very aggressive recruitment program,” Braith Anasta said on NRL 360.
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“So they are at work at the Tigers and if they are going to get aggressive with their recruitment, who are they going to get?”
James Hooper believes the Tigers have a history of letting their best players leave and have struggled to lure stars to the club since Justin Pascoe took the helm as CEO in 2015.
“I like Lee Hagipantelis and I respect him, but he can’t be serious,” Hooper said.
“They have just lost Luke Brooks to the Manly Sea Eagles for next year. OK granted they did sign John Bateman, David Klemmer, Api Koroisau and Isaiah Papali’i over the course of last summer.
“But at what stage are we going to see some accountability from head office at the Wests Tigers?
“You can go back to 2015 when Justin Pascoe was appointed in September of that year. During his tenure we have seen Jason Taylor sacked, the spectacular bust-up with Ivan Cleary, he leaves and goes to Penrith and wins a couple of premierships.
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“Let’s talk players, James Tedesco has left on his watch. Mitchell Moses has left on his watch. Aaron Woods another local junior has left on his watch.
“At some point there has got to be some accountability. The fish rots from the head first and if you look at the scoreboard on the field in terms of results, whether it is 74-0 or whether it is the fact that they have finished 9th, 11th, 13th, 16th last year with the wooden spoon and they are on track for another wooden spoon this year. End of story.”
Anasta believes the Tigers can’t expect their fans to be patient after not playing finals for over a decade and the fact they are arguably worse this season than they were last year despite their recruitment drive.
“It is very hard to tell your fans to be calm when they watch the side get beat 74-0,” Anasta said.
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“Lee Hagipantelis always sounds like he has got a plan, but I don’t see that plan and I haven’t for a long time.”
Michael Carayannis believes the Tigers are in desperate need of a plan because they enter next season without a halfback and there are not many good ones available on the open market.
“They need a plan because there is no halves,” Carayannis said.
“They don’t have a half for next season.”
“That’s what I’m saying, it is OK to plan to have this onslaught of recruiting players, but who?” Anasta said.
Hooper put forward the possibility the Tigers will make a play for the Titans’ Origin forwards who had clauses in their contract to leave the club should Justin Holbrook be sacked.
“We learned this week that possibly because they haven’t enacted the get-out clauses yet, but possibly Tino Fa’asuamaleaui and David Fifita might become available,” Hooper said.
“But I don’t see them going to the Wests Tigers.”
“There is no way they are going to the Wests Tigers,” Anasta added.
Queensland legend Billy Moore was expecting big things from the Tigers in 2023 after their recruitment drive last season, but the club has failed to improve.
“I thought their recruitment last year was the best,” Moore said.
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“They won three games last year. I expected them to be one of the most improved sides this year.
“They got Api, Papali’i, Bateman and Klemmer and they went out there and they shopped and I thought they did a good job.
“Something is wrong with the culture and the DNA of the joint. I thought having Sheens and Benji there would sort it.”
Anasta played for the Tigers in the last two years of his career in a move he regrets and believes the problem he faced then is the same now.
“I think it is about leadership,” Anasta said.
“I have been saying it for a while. I was there a long time ago and as soon as I walked into the joint I knew there was a problem there and looking from the outside in I don’t think it has changed a hell of a lot over those years.
“I think there needs to be some significant change there not just coaches and players. There needs to be significant change at that club to move forward.”