James Tamou claims the pressure on coach Michael Maguire is unfair and says protecting younger players from the headlines will be one of the biggest jobs for Wests Tigers’ five captains.
Maguire enters this season as the coach under the biggest spotlight, after holding onto his job following an end-of-season review last year.
That review and subsequent board meeting came after a season of headlines around Maguire’s future, as the Tigers’ finals drought extended to 10 years.
But while Tamou accepted conjecture was part of football, he felt it unfair that Maguire continued to be under scrutiny.
“Madge has had this team for (three years),” Tamou said.
“There has been coaches who have had their team for eight or 10 years and haven’t even made a grand final.
“I don’t see where that (pressure on him) is coming from. We have a young squad.
“I went through the same thing at Penrith. We had a young squad in 2019, we had a rough year and we were grand finalists in 2020.”
Tamou also defended Maguire’s move to appoint four fellow captains alongside him, seeing upside in clear leadership when he is off the field.
The prop was part of a similar six-man leadership group at Penrith at the start of 2016, before it was reduced to Tamou as the standalone captain by April of that year.
Tamou is also well aware there is guidance required for young Tigers players this year, after seeing headlines about the club impact them last year.
“Blokes would walk in and you could tell something was up or something was bothering them,” Tamou said.
“They had a cloud over the head. You knew he has read something or something has happened.
“I guess we can only be there to help each other, to talk, to chat if anything is going on.
“That is our job as a leadership group. To snap out, say okay we have a job to do.”
Tamou’s clear message to Tigers players is also that they shouldn’t need to see headlines to inspire them.
He was buoyed by the way the team bounced out of the opening trial loss to Manly to beat the Sydney Roosters,
But ahead of the round-one clash with Melbourne, Tamou’s other piece of advice is simply that winning games of football will also silence the external noise.
“We can control how we react, and that’s by doing our job on the field,” he said.