OPINION

Will dropping the skipper force Wests Tigers players to refocus?

Wests Tigers captain Benji Marshall has been dropped by coach Michael Maguire after the loss to the Gold Coast Titans last weekend. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

Wests Tigers captain Benji Marshall has been dropped by coach Michael Maguire after the loss to the Gold Coast Titans last weekend. Photo: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

As a coach, you don't make any bigger selection statement than dropping your captain which is what Michael Maguire did with Benji Marshall at Wests Tigers this week.

In a lot of areas, Benji has been pretty consistent this year so it's come as a bit of a shock. But there is clearly method in Madge's madness.

I've got no doubt the coach has had enough of the inconsistencies in the Tigers' game and this is a highly strategic move on his part to get a desired response.

If dumping your captain and most influential player doesn't resonate with the rest of the playing group than nothing is going to.

What he has done by putting a line through Benji this week is to put every single one of his players on high alert.

I can tell you now, dropping three or four other players following the soft loss to the Gold Coast Titans last weekend would not have had the same impact on the rest of the team that dumping Benji will have.

The coach is renowned as a strong disciplinarian and tough taskmaster which is why he was hired by the under-performing Tigers in the first place. He's clearly tired of his team showing some grit and determination one week but falling back into their old ways the next. So he's got the big stick out.

While he'd never admit it, Madge might even be prepared to sacrifice this next game just to get his point across. Who knows, Benji might even be in on it with the coach.

DRAGONS NOISE

The noise at the Dragons right now is deafening and I feel for their coach Paul McGregor.

I'm a supporter of Mary. I want to see him do well. I know he can coach and I know how hard he works. When things go wrong, the easiest thing for an organisation to do is get rid of the coach. But in this instance, I have no doubt it's the players who need to be the ones having a good look at themselves.

Most of the players in that side need to stand up and show some passion for the jumper, show some application, show some desire because it's just not there for most of them at the moment.

Say what you like about the coach but surely, as a player, you have a responsibility to go out and represent yourself as best you possibly can along with your club and with your fans. I just don't see that from the majority of them.

I see a group down on confidence who are doubting themselves and are too afraid of making mistakes, being smothered by all the pressure. Somehow, they need to forget about the fear around losing and just get out there and go for broke. Firstly though, they need a hard edge and a commitment from everyone in the side, not just a few, to get the job done.

I'd love to see them flick a switch and turn it around quickly but I'm just not sure I'm seeing enough for that to happen.

KNIGHTS EXAMPLE

The Dragons could do worse then have a look at the Newcastle Knights and take a leaf out of their book, just with their enthusiasm and the passion they are showing for the jersey at the moment.

They had every right to lose that game against Penrith a couple of weeks ago but just hung in against the odds and refused to give up to eventually grab a share of the points.

You've got to love that feeling of being able to defend and keep the opposition at bay in tough periods. It becomes your badge of honour to hang in and not concede points and the Knights have been a prime example of that. Then to back that performance up by doing a number on the Raiders last Sunday suggests there is something special developing at the Knights.

Whatever it is, the Dragons could do with some of it.

WHO I'M TIPPING

EAGLES v BRONCOS

The Broncos were abysmal against the Roosters last round and need to find some passion and pride in a hurry to even extend Manly in this one. The Sea Eagles kept coming against the Eels before falling just short and will be too strong in this one.

WARRIORS v COWBOYS

For mine, so much hinges here on whether Jason Taumalolo plays or not for the Cowboys. If he does, the Cowboys win but if he doesn't, I can see the Warriors causing an upset in Gosford.

EELS v PANTHERS

It's the battle of the west and I can see a game of real intensity developing. I'm looking forward to the halves battle between Mitch Moses and the returning Nathan Cleary. Eels in a tight one.

RABBITOHS v TITANS

Souths desperately need a victory and with Cody Walker and James Roberts returning, they should get it here because of the class factor against a Titans side who will take heart from their first win last weekend.

KNIGHTS v STORM

This will be another tight one and while I'm tipping the Storm, I haven't written off the Knights. They are going really well but I reckon it will come down to the brilliance of Cameron Munster to get the Storm home.

TIGERS v RAIDERS

Canberra were out-enthused by the Knights last week and I can see Ricky Stuart's boys taking their frustrations out on the Tigers here.

BULLDOGS v ROOSTERS

If the Roosters are in a similar mood to the one they were in against the Broncos, they will do a number on the Dogs in this one.

DRAGONS v SHARKS

This local derby will tell us everything about the Dragons. I think the Sharks will prevail in a close one.

This story There's method in madness behind the decision to drop Benji first appeared on The Canberra Times.