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The Tigers have lost their plot, and salvation lies in storytelling

And isn’t that meaning of it all – to play?

Having worked with youngsters who have felt lost I’ve found the art of change lies in story, but today’s Tigers haven’t found their modern story, their identity, there is no feeling of any history, and the fact that they are broadcasting their every living moment shows how lost the storytellers are in the joint.

It’s why the team plays well one week, or for moments, and then look lost the next. They are mirroring the shortsightedness of the stories they are told.

That pass: Benji Marshall flicks the ball inside to Pat Richards during the 2005 grand final.

That pass: Benji Marshall flicks the ball inside to Pat Richards during the 2005 grand final.Credit:Brendan Esposito

What’s the vision of this club? To make the finals? That’s not a vision, that’s an outcome. This ain’t a business. At their heart sporting teams bring hope to people. They help us escape our individual struggles and feel a sense of union, of mission. We ride out the pain of our weeks in every tackle, and struggle, in every battle for a blade of grass.

Steve Waugh knew this when he reminded his players their job was to entertain the crowd. Richie McCaw and Dan Carter knew this when they cleaned up the sheds after every game. Sam Kerr and company have a story. Patty Mills and the Boomers have a story.

The Laurie Nichols plaque in the tunnel at Leichhardt Oval.

The Laurie Nichols plaque in the tunnel at Leichhardt Oval.

Maybe it’s beyond the club’s story, maybe the soul started to run away when Darling Street went beige, changing the Town Hall Hotel into a gym, the milk bar into a lingerie store and the corner stores into whatever lycra sells the most. What’s to fight for in an earth-toned wilderness swallowing Balmain with money like the darkness eating the heart of Fantasia?

The hope is in the west. It’s bigger than a story of a football club, it’s at the heart of a story of Australia.

Can we be more complex, can we have different ways of communicating, complex stories in different languages to the ones we’ve known since colonisation?

Memo to the Tigers: rip up the endless cycles of strat plans, Facebook marketing meetings and commissioning reality TV shows. You’ve lost the plot. Look up the Yellow Pages and find yourselves a storyteller asap – ideally someone from the west who has some idea what the modern Australian narrative actually is.

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The Tigers don’t need another coach and they don’t need more players. They need the story to be told of who they are, a story of what it means for two battling original clubs, with people from working class suburbs coming together.

They and the modern day Labor Party are losing the story, so people from working class communities vote Liberal, or James Tedesco goes to the Roosters and becomes their captain.

If you stand for something bigger than money, something more important than yourselves – then you have something to fight for.

Jack Manning Bancroft is the Founder & Head of Design at AIME, a global network making unlikely connections between marginalised youth and those in the margins to create a fairer world. He has been a Tigers fan for 36 years.

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