Will Michael Maguire’s exit from the Wests Tigers solve their issues?

A morning which began with the news of Nathan Brown’s immediate departure from the New Zealand Warriors was quickly interrupted by Michael Maguire’s exit from the Wests Tigers.

Yesterday, in Australia’s very own version of ‘Black Monday’ – where multiple coaches in the NFL are fired on the same day – the news caught many by surprise.  

But in truth, the all-too-familiar clichés whenever a coach is under severe pressure had already been established. ‘There have been rumblings’, ‘the writing is on the wall’ and the universal favourite ‘he is a dead man walking’.

The duo now join Trent Barrett in becoming casualties of the NRL’s ruthless coaching landscape. The churn never stops, it only slows momentarily before kicking back into gear.

Tim Sheens, the Tigers’ Director of Football, made the customary appearance in front of the cameras. He spoke at length about what the future of the club should – and hopefully would – look like.

In response to Maguire’s sacking, this involves Brett Kimmorley in a caretaker role to navigate through the second-half of the season. And while the club attempts to find a coach for the sixth time in the last decade, success will seem as far away as ever.

“Developing players is what I will ask him to do and that’s exactly what he wants to do,” Sheens said of his interim appointment.  

“If that results in wins that’s great. In the meantime, we are developing for next year, recruiting for next year as well as recruiting a coach.”

The Tigers have struggled to develop a coherent structure, regardless of the man placed in control.  

Maguire was brought in to administer some discipline throughout the playing group, but ultimately failed having finished with a record of 29 wins from 80 matches. The hope of Ivan Cleary revitalising the club lasted two years, before he jumped ship back to Penrith.

Since 2012, the word ‘rebuild’ has been stuck to the Wests Tigers name.

Mick Potter was in charge of the first one and there have been so many since, it’s hard to keep track of them all. The truth is, the Tigers have never actually been working towards anything other than the beginnings of another rebuild.  

They’ve been caught in a vicious cycle where one coach brings in their player of choice, before they’re eventually seen as a drain on the salary cap. The aforementioned coach had, of course, already been ousted by this point.

More: Phil Gould shuts down Maguire to Bulldogs links 

Sheens mention of a ‘development coach’ at least offers something different for the venture. The problem is it’s what pretty much every other club down the bottom is pursuing too.

Penrith’s success with their youth system has made the chasing pack seek to replicate this, in the hopes of seeing similar success.

Once a team is efficient with their game plans, structure, recruitment and sports science innovations they are analysed to death before then being copied by the rest.

“We turn it around by changing our policies,” Sheens said on NRL 360.

“We change what we are doing. To start with I am in charge of that so it is up to me now to direct the club and to move forward with that.

“We are looking for a development coach. Someone who is prepared to give our youngsters an opportunity.

“It’s not going to be a simple fix tomorrow. We have a lot of kids 21 and under in the club. We just have to cherry pick where we need to cherry pick and develop hard and continue our development program.

“We have got great pathways now. We are determined to make a fist of that,” he said.

The assessment of Sheens more than likely rules out Shane Flanagan and Paul Green from the job. They have reputations as hard taskmasters and coaches who prefer to build their teams around veterans. The premiership winners may not take kindly to Sheens overseeing their work either.  

A young, inexperienced coach who has the room to learn and grow with the players is what Sheens is targeting. Cameron Ciraldo and countless other assistant coaches looking for their big break could be in the frame.

However, the highly-touted Ciraldo makes the most logical sense to be this ‘development coach’ as he has inside knowledge of the Panthers system and has prior for coaxing the best out of young talent.

But it remains to be seen whether the club can lure him from the relative safety at the foot of the mountains, to the jungle that will be the Wests Tigers over the next few years.

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