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Benji's tough approach to save the Tigers

Martin Gabor -

They were portrayed as the Cinderella story of 2023 with the old guard reuniting to save the Wests Tigers, but any thoughts of a repeat of 2005 were quickly extinguished as the club finished with its second wooden spoon in as many seasons.

It's why club legend Benji Marshall says "talk is cheap" in Tiger Town as the new coach outlines his plan to make them great again after 12-straight seasons without a finals appearance.

Tim Sheens' return as coach with Marshall and Robbie Farah calling the shots at training was the emotional reunion that had fans reliving the glory days of yesteryear, but the move backfired spectacularly, with the premiership-winning coach gone by the end of the season.

His departure fast-tracked Marshall's move into the top job, with a boardroom clean-out paving the way for the Kiwis legend to start fresh at a club that desperately needs to move on from a decade of disappointment.

Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall were supposed to save the Tigers last year. Picture: David Swift

Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall were supposed to save the Tigers last year. (Image: David Swift)

"All I know is that we're moving forward and things that happened last year don't matter to us as much as what's happening now and where we're going," Marshall said on Thursday.

"That's a really important message to our team that we can't change what happened, but we have to look forward and make sure we shape how we go from here on out.

"We have the greatest fans in the world, and I mean that definitely because when we had success in 2005, it was rocking.

"I understand the frustration in not having success and how hard that would be for our fans, but at the same time, all they've heard is talk for the last 10 years.

"I've made it pretty clear that it doesn't matter what we say anymore, it's the actions that we do that will dictate how our fans feel."

Back-to-back wooden spoons means most people have left the Tigers out of their top-eight predictions for 2024, with Marshall unwilling to set any sort of expectations for where they'll finish.

The Tigers won just four matches last season. Picture: Michael Bradley/Getty Images

The Tigers won just four matches last season. (Image: Michael Bradley/Getty Images)

"We're not going to set anything out publicly with what we want to achieve," he said.

"Obviously, everyone wants to make the top eight, so that's probably a start for us, but we've got a lot of improvements to make in small parts of our game that I think needed improving.

"We'll build foundations on where we need to get to."

There have been big changes in the off-season, with Justin Olam moving from the Storm to bring some much-needed experience in the outside backs, while Aidan Sezer, Jayden Sullivan and Latu Fainu are fighting for spots in the halves.

The teams at the top are all settled on who they'll start the season with, but the Tigers will head into next week's trial against the Warriors knowing that pre-season form will play a key role in who makes their team when they face the Raiders in round 2.

The only way is up for the Wests Tigers. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Jeremy Piper

The only way is up for the Wests Tigers. (Image: Jeremy Piper/NCA NewsWire)

"With our team, the one thing I've made clear is that no spots are really guaranteed, so you've got to earn it here," Marshall said.

"The trials are a part of it, but over the last 14 weeks, people have shown signs of how much they want to be in the team and how hard they want to be there.

"Most of those guys will be in the team."

Martin Gabor - NCA NewsWire


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