NRL great Billy Slater has urged Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire to stick with his current halves combination and bin his defence-first policy in a doubtful bid to secure a playoffs berth.
The Tigers face off against the Sydney Roosters tomorrow night and need a win against the injury-hit premiers to keep their hopes alive.
Maguire has picked Benji Marshall and Luke Brooks to start in the halves again after a Brooks field-goal led the club to last week’s 29-28 win over the Bulldogs.
Both players have been dropped at different times this season as Maguire ruled with an iron fist to send a clear message that no player in his roster was untouchable. Both players had high missed tackle counts in the game before they felt the axe.
That gave youngster Billy Walters an opportunity to start in the halves but an injury to the son of Queensland coach Kevin forced Maguire to give the Benji-Brooks combination another chance. Slater says the Tigers’ destiny depends on it.
Speaking on Wide World of Sports’ Billy’s Breakdown, the Maroons legend said the Tigers have the “right ingredients” to make a run for the top eight in a bid to end their nine-year finals drought.
“When they’ve played their best football this season Benji Marshall has controlled the game,” Slater said. “It’s through his kicking game. He’s the most creative player on the field. He’s got the most line-break assists and the most try-assists.
“When Luke Brooks has looked good, it’s when he runs the football.
“He has a little bit more speed than Benji Marshall so having that space out wider he can play instinctive football.
“He’s got all the skills but it’s been that pressure that has been getting to him which has led to inconsistent form.”
If the Tigers don’t upset the injury-ravaged Sydney Roosters on Saturday, there is every chance they lose their remaining matches this year.
After the Roosters, they take on Penrith followed by a Manly team potentially buoyed by the return of Tom Trbojevic, then South Sydney, Melbourne and Parramatta.
In order to make the finals, Slater believes the Tigers need to produce “perfect football” but not in the conventional way in which Maguire has built his game plan.
“Most teams build their game around defence and let their attack flow off the back of it,” Slater said. “The Tigers are one of a few teams that can do it in reverse.
“If they get their attack right their defence will be energised. If I was Michael Maguire I’d be sticking with what he’s got at the moment.”