Wests Tigers, Michael Maguire, contract, squad, Paul Gallen


Wests Tigers are floundering in their bid to lure and keep top talent and the club’s roster is being hijacked by its indecision over Michael Maguire‘s future as coach, according to Paul Gallen.

The rugby league great says he was staggered that the Tigers were set to lose promising back-rowers Luciano Leilua (Cowboys) and Kelma Tuilagi (Sea Eagles) after this season, before stressing the importance of clarity around the coach to roster management.

The hits to the Tigers, who haven’t qualified for finals footy since 2011, will only get harder if they lose their fifth game from five starts in a clash with the Sharks on Sunday.

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“The thing that I find really bewildering is they’re losing their two back-rowers… so, they’re clearly struggling to attract and to retain talent,” Gallen said on 2GB’s Wide World of Sports radio.

“Now, that’s an issue. At some point in time it’s got to come back on the coach, because the first thing players ask when they’re going to a new club is, ‘well, who’s the coach? Who’s the coach going to be?’

“… I feel like I’m kicking Bambi because they’re down and out and they’re struggling at the moment and they have been for a couple of years. But there just comes a time where someone needs to take the blame or someone needs to make a decision.”

Prized Panthers hooker Apisai Koroisau and dangerous Eels back-rower Isaiah Papali’i are among the Tigers’ gains for 2023, while talented playmaker Jackson Hastings and crafty utility Tyrone Peachey landed at the club ahead of this season.

But the losses of Luciano and Tuilagi are concerning, and their departures follow those of James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses, Ryan Papenhuyzen and a host of other superstars in recent years.

Maguire arrived at the Concord club ahead of the 2019 season and is contracted until the end of 2023, but the club has the option of ending his tenure early and paying him out.

The Tigers last year carried out an internal review and, at the end of a long and messy process, decided to stick with Maguire.

But how much longer the former premiership-winning Rabbitohs coach survives at the Tigers is difficult to predict.

Gallen delivered a blunt take on the game of limbo being played at the joint venture.

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“I think they’ve got to back him or move on, back him or sack him, so to speak, back him and say he’s going to be the coach,” Gallen said.

“I’d sign him for another three or four years. It’s going to take this club, in my opinion, another two or three years to get out of this because of the contracts they have at the moment.

“So, back him and sign him for a longer-term deal and let him try to get the club out of this and play on through it, or otherwise you’re going to have to move on.

“You’re better ripping off the band-aid sooner rather than later.”

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