Tigers: it’s not me, it’s you.
The best moment was right after I made the decision. If things
were going to get better, they would have done so years ago.
But lately, the relationship was deteriorating faster than
ever. This was the right time to quit. And now it’s over, I
can’t wait to get on with the rest of my life.
We got together, you and me, when I was barely out of nappies.
I liked tigers. My brother always said I liked the winning
streak you had one year, but he’s wrong. I just liked actual
tigers and your fearsome tiger logo.
In the early years of our relationship, you went through some
tough times yet I always stuck fast, buoyed by the genuine
prospect of a better future. In their way, the bad times were
more nourishing than the good. They taught us both that there
are more important things in life than winning.
When success came unexpectedly with that premiership in 2005,
it was the high point of our relationship. But things turned
sour immediately afterwards when all your bad habits came
flooding back. Obviously I stayed with you, but it was sure
hard to watch. It was as though you didn’t know what to do with
The Sydney Morning Herald via Getty
Images Yep, they pretty much pissed away all that
goodwill, like only the Tigers can.
Down you slid. And slid, and slid, until now, here you are at
pretty much rock bottom. These have been bad years. Not only
have you made the finals fewer times than any other team (just
thrice in 17 years), but your three best players — including
the captain — have just decided to leave.
That, after the previous captain was shoved out by a coach
who’s now been sacked, the superstar who guided you to a
premiership left, and countless players who have since won
premierships elsewhere were shown the door.
You’re self-sabotaging and dysfunctional as all hell, did
anyone ever tell you that?
Let me tell you the main thing I’ve learned all these years,
apart from the obvious fact which is that the current board —
like others before it — has no idea how to run a football
I’ve learned that there’s something much more important to
every football fan than success. Know what that thing is? It’s
hope. It’s the belief that better times are around the corner.
Matt King via Getty Images
The author will miss the humour of fans like this on the
Leichhardt Oval hill, whose sign cleverly references the
departure of coach Jason Taylor for the incoming Ivan Cleary.
But life moves on.
That’s what’s been so wrong with this relationship all these
years. I’ve had no reason to hope. In a competition where all
teams have the same amount of money to spend, all fans should
have the reasonable expectation that their team will be
competitive any given year.
Tigers fans have never had that.
Hope, above all else, is what attracts people through the
turnstyles. Fans rightly have loyalty to a name, to a set of
colours and logo which has been worn down through the decades
by generations of hulking men. We have our collective memories
and our united passion. These things are all real and
sustaining and good.
But fans need more than the past experiences of standing on
crowded hills or sitting in plastic bucket seats squeezing
sauce sachets on their freshly washed jeans watching blokes in
familiar colours turn grass to mud. We need hope. If the team
sucks on any given day or season, so be it. But give us hope
that you’re building something. Make us believe, even if that
belief is clearly irrational.
With the departure of James Tedesco and Aaron Woods announced
yesterday, I no longer have any hope for the future as a Wests
Tigers fan. Maybe we’ll attract other good players, maybe we
won’t. Either way, I can’t bring myself to care anymore.
Mark Metcalfe via Getty
Images The author respects this guy’s passion, not to
mention his beer-balancing skills. But he’s chosen to walk
Read the Tigers’ strategic plan
(alternatively known in the corporate gobbledygook favoured by
one board member as their “strategic pillar”), then ask
yourself how the disgraced former Tiger Tim
Simona was betting thousands of dollars each weekend on the
pokies — and even betting on himself to score tries in NRL
games — yet no one from the club intervened.
You could ask a lot more questions of this deeply dysfunctional
organisation. Truth is, I don’t want to know the answers
anymore. At some point in a relationship, you’ve got to stop
expecting the other half to get better, and concentrate on what
you can do.
What can I do? Walk out, that’s what. For this, some will
doubtless call me a quitter. “You’ve got to stick with them
through the good times and the bad,” they’ll say.
I disagree. A football club is not a birthmark. It is not
family. It’s an organisation you choose to associate yourself
with, and you can break that bond anytime. I’m not walking out
because they’re no good at football. I’m walking out because
they’re no good, full stop.
And instead of spending $20.50 on a ticket to the match at
Leichhardt Oval next week, I’m donating $20 to saving real tigers. In fact I just did. And here’s
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