Tigers welcome enemy Cleary to fight AFL - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Tigers welcome enemy Cleary to fight AFL

By David Beniuk 15/09/2011 05:47:08 PM Comments (0)

Warriors coach Ivan Cleary will be the enemy on Friday night but NRL semi-final opponents the Wests Tigers will welcome him into the trenches for the battle with AFL in Sydney's west.

Cleary's side will look to end the Tigers' nine-game winning streak, and with it their season, at the Sydney Football Stadium but a loss would mean the end of the coach's six-year reign at the Auckland club.

The 40-year-old will link with Penrith next season after he was targeted by Panthers supremo Phil Gould for his ability to turn youngsters into NRL stars.

The Warriors have made the playoffs in four of Cleary's six seasons, more than their total number of finals appearances in the previous 11 years of the club's history.

His job at the Panthers will put him in the front line of the fight against the AFL's GWS Giants, along with the Tigers and Parramatta.

Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys, who is hoping Cleary can get an early start at Penrith with the Warriors bowing out, can see what impressed Gould.

"The Warriors are blessed with a wonderful nursery of talented junior players and Ivan's done a really good job in taking advantage of that natural resource and helped develop that talent to NRL level," Humphreys told AAP.

"Penrith is a similar circumstance where, along with Wests Tigers and Parramatta, more than half of the junior players in the state play in those three districts.

"To have someone who's had some recent experience with trying to harness that talent and develop it is going to be really helpful for Penrith and I think helpful for the game in western Sydney."

Humphreys said a battle plan was developing for the heartland clubs to limit the influence of the Blacktown-based Giants, who enter the AFL with western Sydney product and ex-NRL star Israel Folau spearheading their publicity push.

"More and more all of the clubs have a view where we compete once a week but for the rest of the week we tend to cooperate ... at things like encouraging participation in the game at a grassroots level," the Tigers boss said.

"It just makes a hell of a lot of sense that we co-operate and work together on those kinds of projects.

"I think we're already doing more of that and I'm sure that will continue to be the case."

The Tigers are strong favourites to book a grand final playoff with Manly in a week's time.

As well as their late wave of momentum, they've downed the Warriors twice already in 2011 while Cleary's side has dropped two of its past three, including last weekend's 40-10 drubbing by Brisbane.

The Warriors go into the game with utility Lewis Brown and fringe first-grader Krisnan Inu as their centres combination with injuries to Joel Moon (ankle) and Shaun Berrigan (hip).

The Tigers could take full toll with flying Test centre Chris Lawrence back from a hamstring problem.

Humphreys is already pleased with the club's achievements so far this year.

"We're the only club to have achieved a top four result in the last two years so I think that's quite an achievement," he said.

"To consistently perform at a high level is very difficult in the NRL."

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