After the emotion-charged year Robbie Farah had endured, it's hardly a surprise to hear he was glad when it came to an end.
The 29-year-old was left to grieve the death of his mother to cancer, all while the Blues surrendered a seventh-straight Origin series and his beloved Wests Tigers imploded around him. ''I was exhausted, to be honest,'' Farah said.
''It was a mentally draining year for many reasons and, to be honest, I was happy when the season finished. I had a good four or five weeks off and got away and really didn't think about footy or want to talk about footy.
''I just cleared my head and tried to freshen myself up. That was an important break for me.''
Last year's pre-season premiership favourites didn't even make the finals. But the substandard performance would be felt a lot deeper than their mad Monday hangover, as the club prepared to shed its favourite sons in a bid to rejuvenate the joint venture after a lacklustre campaign.
The Tigers parted ways with two of the most respected and liked characters in the team - Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan - before dumping Tim Sheens as head coach after a decade at the helm.
Farah is the first to admit he was angered by certain decisions made by the club hierarchy last September, but insists the playing group has moved on.
He said a heart-to-heart between players, coaching staff and management in September went a long way to rebuilding the fractured club.
''At the time it was difficult. Our season was finished and we weren't training so all we knew of what was going on was what was in the newspapers,'' Farah said.
''The way it was handled at the time, I guess it could've been handled better. The players were kept in the dark about things. After it all happened we had a meeting and we put it to bed and everyone aired their concerns to the playing group and to management.
''At the time we sat down as a club from upstairs to everyone downstairs and we spoke about everything that was going on, why it happened and the reasons they did. Management explained things to us and we had to put things to bed. That allowed everyone the chance to understand and move forward.''
''My concern on behalf of the players was the fact we didn't know what was going on, the decisions themselves were none of our concerns. I think communication is so important and the communication failed at that time. We were getting different messages from here or there, and when that starts to happen, players get concerned.''
Under new coach Mick Potter, the Tigers have benefited from one of the best preparations for a season in recent memory. The void on the international calendar provided the Tigers with their full squad before Christmas, not to mention a coach.
''It's the first full pre-season I've had since 2007 and I know Benji wouldn't be too dissimilar with Kiwi duties,'' Farah said.
''Even in the past Sheensy has been away on coaching duties with the Aussies. This year we've all been here since November and had a good couple of months before Christmas. Now it's just about getting stuck into trials and work out combinations heading into round one.''
Potter has made several changes since taking over the head coach's role, including the implementation of a leaders group that was voted on by the players, which includes Farah, Benji Marshall, Chris Lawrence, Braith Anasta, Aaron Woods and Sean Meaney.
- Sydney Morning Herald
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