The Wests Tigers are at breaking point after captain Robbie Farah told club officials he was not coming to training on Wednesday because he believes he has been hung out to dry over the demise of coach Mick Potter.
And the hole is about to get deeper for the club with halfback Luke Brooks' shoulder injury worse than expected. The 19-year-old is considered a doubtful starter against the Storm on Monday, with suggestions he could be sidelined for as long as a month.
Farah stunned teammates when he was a no-show at Concord Oval for training on Wednesday afternoon. Some were angry their leader had snubbed the side at one of its darkest hours, as the pressure mounts on Potter. But others remain genuinely concerned, as they know the personal toll the last few days has taken on their captain. Those closest to Farah say football is the least of his priorities at the moment.
Fairfax Media understands Farah's manager, Sam Ayoub, told Tigers chief executive Grant Mayer on Tuesday night that the NSW hooker was not coming in. The Tigers tried to stage-manage the fallout as best they could with Potter saying, via a statement: "I was more than happy for Robbie to have today off training considering the circumstances. He will return later in the week."
At the heart of the issue is that Farah feels deeply betrayed by his club because he has been pushed forward as the one who wants Potter sacked. Farah is furious comments backing Potter at a media conference on Saturday were edited out for the club's website. Then, over the weekend, he was forced to defend allegations from Triple M's Gorden Tallis that Farah had told him Potter was "struggling".
Those remarks to Tallis were made 15 months ago. The Farah camp insists the comments were taken out of context, that he supports the coach, and has not undermined him as widely thought. Consequently, a showdown is looming between captain and chief executive. For his part, Mayer denies the club has hung Farah out to dry.
"I don't think so," he said. "I think Robbie has had a traumatic time, and I sent out a very strongly worded release on Monday saying it was completely unacceptable the way this has played out for a club captain and life member. I think it's unfair and I can certainly understand why he feels aggrieved. I've spoken to his manager and we're keen to sit down and work through any issues that may exist."
Ayoub had no comment when contacted. There has been much concern for Farah's mental state since Sunday's dramatic loss to the Dragons.
Injured five-eighth Braith Anasta told Sky News: "I think the last few days and the week in particular has affected him a lot. I know he's hurting because of this whole situation and at the end of the day it's not one guy or one player who's going to make a decision on a coach."
As the players emerged from a video session, former Balmain enforcer Steve Roach addressed the forward pack. It is understood Roach said the latest setback could bring them together or destroy them. Veteran Tigers utility Dene Halatau had concerns over Farah's well being after he was dragged into the headlines on Sunday. Halatau said it had plagued Farah before Sunday's game.
"I could see that he was distracted by it or it had affected him," Halatau said. "As a mate, it was concerning for me. When you prepare for a game, you get in your head space, it's a very processed thing. And to see someone like Robbie who's very professional and he's pretty thick-skinned, to be a bit rattled by it, I was concerned for him.
"But he came out on the weekend and played a pretty good game. He ran for nearly 180 metres as a hooker which is pretty impressive and scored a try.
"We actually had a get-together on Sunday night as boys which we had planned for a number of weeks. We got together and had a few drinks, and then on Monday I just texted him to see how he was holding up.
"There was more stuff in the media, I just texted him to see how he was doing and there was a few texts back saying he was copping it and he felt a bit like he had a target on him. He's been through some tough times before and hopefully he gets through this.
"He does hold things pretty hard. But he also loves competing and being a fighter. And I know that overrides everything. I know he'll get over it. He'll take his own time obviously, but once he gets on the field and he repeats what he does last weekend, then he'll be fine."
Teammate Adam Blair - who has gone through his own personal struggles - predicted Farah to bounce back.
"I haven't seen Robbie," Blair said. "I thought he played well for us on Sunday. He did a lot of work around the middle there. He has been around long enough to know what he can do. He understands what it takes to turn up here and try hard."
- Sydney Morning Herald
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