Editorial: Whatever happened to the Wests in the Wests Tigers?
Sunday's embarrassing capitulation-near-loss by the Wests Tigers against Parramatta is not merely a one-off incident.by NRL
Sunday's embarrassing capitulation-near-loss by the Wests Tigers against Parramatta is not merely a one-off incident. It is, in fact, representative of what the powers that be at the Wests Tigers have done to the club since its inception in late 1999.
For those newcomers, the 'Tigers' brand is not the be all and end all of the club.
In fact, before the advent of the Wests Tigers, two separate clubs stood proudly. Rival clubs, never haters of each other, who, indeed, faced off in the 1948 premiership decider.
The Western Suburbs Magpies won that day, defeating the Balmain Tigers, and the Magpies won on the final occasion the clubs faced off, on a rather wintery day at Campbelltown in June 1999, by 18-12. Sadly, it was the final occasion the Magpies would taste success in the top grade.
Since the joint venture agreement, both Balmain and Western Suburbs were left to their own devices outside the NRL setup.
Both sides would administer their own junior rep teams, and would continue to participate as separate entities in the senior NSWRL competition, currently the NSW Cup.
Sadly, the joint venture which won the Grand Final of 2005 is no more.
In 2005, both Western Suburbs and Balmain competed, and both were supplied with players and funding from the Wests Tigers.
Double the teams meant double the depth.
Well, not for Tim Sheens apparently.
For Sheens, only one feeder club was acceptable, because he felt, for some reason, that having teammates competing against each other in the lower grades would introduce friction into the camp.
Yes Tim, that is obviously the case, because State of Origin did such a good job at killing club football, and vice versa.
In the end, Sheens chose Balmain as his exclusive feeder club. Why? Because Western Suburbs dared to want the legal agreement honoured. Nothing more, nothing less.
If the Magpies wanted back into the big time, then maybe Sheens may have had a point, but no, nothing of the sort happened.
So Western Suburbs no longer warranted any attention from Mr Sheens.
Well, that was a nasty pill to swallow, but hardcore Magpies moved on, accepting that we would now be simply a breeding ground for talent, or even a halfway house for players looking for a second chance.
All things being equal, it was an outcome which was acceptable, as we continued to survive and hum along.
Enter Stephen Humphreys.
We know the history surrounding what his father did to the game in the 1980s, but everyone forgets that it was Western Suburbs and Newtown on the receiving end of Kevin's reign of terror.
Fast forward from 1983 to Humphreys' appointment in 2009, and the attitudes of Balmain have not changed one iota.
After Western Suburbs were stripped of their feeder club status, they continued, against all odds, to thrive.
In 2009, they notched up a 68-4 win over the Central Coast (Melbourne feeder) in week one of the finals before bravely bowing out, then in 2010 fell one game short of the Grand Final, going down by eight points to Canterbury, who proceeded to slaughter Balmain 30-0 in the decider.
Last year, the team finished one win short of the eight, pipped by Balmain by virtue of the fact that Balmain had three byes to the Magpies two.
One might consider this just whingeing from a Magpie diehard, but the treatment dished out to the Magpies since last season has been nothing short of embarrassing for an NRL club which prides itself on being a feeling, community minded club.
After a meeting of the 'minds' (And I use the term minds loosely) between Sheens, Humphreys and other powers that be, the decision was taken to have a single NSW Cup team, Wests Tigers, for this season.
This meant that, for Western Suburbs, no guarantees were available to their coaching staff or players.
Subsequently, many went to other clubs, with a handful, such as Andrew Everingham and Mitch Achurch, finding their way to the NRL this season.
So, what were the Magpies to do, if not just roll over and die?
The board of the Magpies sought to begin talks with Canberra, Melbourne and even St. George-Illawarra (I say even because of the Wests-St George history) with a view to Western Suburbs linking with those NRL teams.
What was the reaction of Mr Humphreys? To say he was pissed would be an understatement.
What else did he expect? Does he, or any of his cronies, truly expect a club that has endured more hits than Elvis and the Beatles combined to just give up because someone tells them to?
Such love from a parent company does not augur well for a steady and respectful relationship between partners, but clearly the thoughts of Sheens and Humphreys don't include a booming growth sector in the Macarthur.
Sadly, this debacle of debauchery by Concord has seen Western Suburbs stripped of any competitiveness so far this season.
An average of almost 60 points per game conceded, and an inability to register 100 points on the board even after eight games makes it difficult to watch for even the most ardent Magpie fans, like myself.
The boys are trying hard, the coaching staff is trying hard, but we are effectively children who have our parents mooching off us, and it's a travesty of justice.
What we, as Western Suburbs fans, want, is not the World. While fancy inner city types may take after James Bond and cry The World Is Not Enough, we from the West just want a fair crack.
Ultimately, we would love to be a feeder club into the Wests Tigers again, but we recognise that Tim Sheens calls the shots on a football level.
Rightly or wrongly, and based on this season he is clearly wrong, this is something which we must live with.
What is NOT too much to ask, though, is for the Western Suburbs Football Club to be treated with respect and dignity.
Removing the Magpie from the gear of Western Suburbs Magpies Junior Rep players to be replaced by a Wests Tiger is a bit rich.
All we ask is that Stephen Humphreys honour the terms of a legal document, spelling out how the joint venture between Balmain and Wests is effective at NRL level ONLY.
Once this is accepted, we can get on with seeing Western Suburbs perform with pride again, as stability and confidence returns to our proud club.
Western Suburbs does not want, and has never asked for, preferential treatment.
All the Magpies want is a fair go, just as Balmain have received.
After all, we are the WESTS in the Wests Tigers.
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