Wests Tigers players are urging the club’s fans to blame them, not coach Jason Taylor, for their 54-point NRL drubbing by Canberra.
Taylor and his team have just five days to turn things around between Saturday’s humiliatingly 60-6 defeat and Thursday’s clash with a desperate South Sydney, but already there off-field distractions.
Stand-in co-captain Chris Lawrence was forced to address fan discontent at their only full on-field training session for the week on Monday, after a petition was started by Tigers fans calling for Taylor’s head in the aftermath of a sixth straight loss.
“That performance had nothing do with him as coach,” Lawrence said. “That’s on us as players and we know that.”
“On the weekend it was just an attitude thing. And that was on individuals. It’s got nothing to do with the coach or the way we prepare for a game plan or anything like that.”
Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe also stood by Taylor, declaring on Sunday he would remain the club’s coach for at least the 2016 season.
His comments did little to hose down speculation that the coach was on the outer with his players after footage emerged of a seemingly despondent Taylor not addressing the team during halftime.
But Wests Tigers winger Jordan Rankin insisted the footage had been taken out of context.
“That’s a bit of vision that’s cut up,” he said.
“We do the same thing every week – Jason comes in and has his word and then the assistant coaches say their part.”
Rankin said the players had taken the embarrassing loss to heart.
“It was a disgraceful (on-field) performance … We didn’t see it coming and we were ashamed to be a part of that performance.”
Making matters worse, the Tigers could be without prop Tim Grant against the Rabbitohs, as he struggles to overcome a leg injury.
Already without injured prop and captain Aaron Woods, they ran for 800 metres less than the Raiders on Sunday and they are set to face a big and frustrated Rabbitohs pack including at least two of the Burgess brothers.
However fellow stand-in co-captain Dene Halatau, who is expected to play despite minor surgery on his hand on Sunday, believed the short turnaround was welcome for the Tigers.
“The preparation is definitely restricted a bit,” he said.
“But it could be a good thing. We’ve got to get over that game really quickly. The quicker we can put that behind us probably the better.”