Cameron Smith has questioned the Wests Tigers' decision to start Api Koroisau from the bench for Sunday's NRL clash with the Gold Coast Titans after the new captain played just 46 minutes in the loss. Tim Sheens named Koroisau captain of the joint-venture club last month, touting his leadership qualities.
However the former Penrith Panthers star was limited to a reduced workload on Sunday, with Jake Simpkin starting at hooker in the 22-10 loss. Sheens explained after the game that Koroisau isn't quite ready to play 80 minutes so early in the new season.
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“Joe [Ofahengaue] hasn’t played a game and Api hasn’t either. Both coming off injury," Sheens said in his post-game press conference. "Jake has played two games and then we put Api on. Joe the same."
Addressing the situation on SEN radio on Monday, Melbourne Storm champion Smith described it as 'strange' to see a club captain starting the season on the bench. “You’ve named Api as captain and he’s a big buy in the off-season,” Smith said.
“He’s the best nine in the football club, I don’t understand why he doesn’t just start the game. Give yourself the best opportunity of starting well and possibly scoring some early points.
“It’s like they tried to replicate what the Panthers were doing last year and particularly in the finals. The thing is though, it’s a completely different set up. Api doesn’t have the same personnel around him at the Tigers than he did at Penrith. It’s very strange and I’d expect him to run on (at the start) this week.”
Veteran NRL journalist Phil Rothfield was also miffed. “I cannot believe they didn’t start Api Koroisau,” he said on Sky Sports radio. “I know a lot of coaches with their little hookers and creative players wait for the sting to be out of the game before they bring them on to the park.
But I could not believe their gun signing, their new skipper ... I don’t know if it was Tim Sheens or Benji Marshall’s decision but I think it was a major, major blunder not having him out there for the full game.”
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Laurie Daley backed Sheens to make the right decisions for the club considering his wealth of experience. “I will say this, the coach has got a better handle on how the players are travelling, their fitness leading up to the game, and Tim’s saying he wasn’t fit. You’ve got to take him on face value,” Daley said.
“Personally, I would have started him. He’s the captain, they’ve announced him as the big signing - start him and away you go. I think everyone was shocked when you saw him on the bench.”
Sheens said a number of players had suffered from a disrupted pre-season, but didn't want to make excuses. “Particularly the guys who’ve come back and haven’t had a lot of pre-season. Api’s one of those. No excuses for him," he said.
“But some guys started the second of November and others well into January. It’s been a little bit [about] bringing Api into our system and making sure our halves are on the same page. And we had a little bit of success with that. And a little bit of clunkiness.
“But again, round one, and we didn’t throw it in ... if the effort’s not there I would be worried."
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