'He wants to stay': Marshall hoses down Galvin release talk as Tigers chase a win for the true believers (2024)

As Prime Minister Anthony Albanese extolled the virtues of the stadium's past at one end of Leichhardt Oval and the Wests Tigers future went through their captain's run at the other, Benji Marshall stood in the middle and defended the present.

That's a hard thing to do right now, even accounting for the new funding plan which will save the famous ground where the Tigers will meet the Titans on Saturday night.

That's a game for the true believers. The Tigers have lost nine matches in a row and their bright start to the year has fast become a distant memory, especially after last week's 56-14 loss to St George Illawarra.

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For a second, it looked as though things could get even worse amid reports Lachlan Galvin, the 18-year old five-eighth who was at the heart of so much of that early optimism, wanted out of the club.

Even after back-to-back wooden spoons, that's a hard place to be. Marshall can't snap his fingers and end the losing streak overnight, but he did what he could to affirm Galvin's future at the club.

"I don't think he did (ask for a release) to be honest," Marshall said.

"Richo (CEO Shane Richardson) went and met with his parents and they've made it clear he wants to stay, he wants to be here and he's with us and our vision moving forward.

"That's all that needs to be said, he's going nowhere."

Marshall has a calming way about him. When he talks about the challenges the Tigers face, they don't feel insurmountable.

'He wants to stay': Marshall hoses down Galvin release talk as Tigers chase a win for the true believers (1)

But a good attitude doesn't change the size of the mountain. The Tigers are on tilt right now.

Fully fit they might have a couple more wins to their name but their injury toll has taken an already thin squad and totally ripped it apart.

By the time Saturday night's match against the Titans kicks off, with Galvin being rested, they'll have used 31 players, the most of any team in the league this season.

Two of their new faces, Jordan Miller and Heath Mason, will be making their NRL debuts. They'll take the club's number of debutants this year to nine. No other club has more than four.

Luke Laulilii, a fullback or winger of considerable promise, was named on an extended bench on Tuesday but only became eligible to play first grade two days later when he celebrated his 18th birthday.

He was named in the 21-man squad for the same reason Adam Doueihi, who hasn't played a match since last April due to injuries, was – the Tigers are running out of fit players.

If the team lines up as predicted the most experienced man on the bench will be Sione Fainu, who will be playing his third NRL game.

Api Koroisau is the in the midst of a battle for a State of Origin recall at hooker but offered to move to halfback – against Marshall's protestations.

"He was the guy who put his hand up to do it. For a guy who is pushing to play Origin at nine to put his hand up for his team and play seven is a pretty unselfish act," Marshall said.

"That's the respect he has for his teammates and how much he wants to get out of it, otherwise I might have been playing.

"I brought it up and he said that's (Origin) not his focus at the moment. I thought it was unfair to put him at seven when he was pushing for Origin, he saw it differently."

The emergence of Miller, a giant of a prop who the club lists at 191cm and 131kg but might be a little taller and is definitely a bit lighter after half a season in reserve grade, and Mason, an Australian Scoolboys rep last year, is cause for optimism.

Mason in particular shapes as a player of the future, even if he's only expected to see limited minutes on Saturday — the Thirlmere product has played just three NSW Cup games.

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"It's an exciting time for these young guys, as much as it seems like it's doom and gloom for the club we get to debut a few youngsters with bright futures.

"(Miller) is a big lad who plays the ball quick and runs really hard, he's a great personality that we love having around the club.

"(Mason) puts in with everything he does and he's earned this opportunity.

"Amongst this perception that it's going tough and it's rough, this is the ninth player we've debuted this season. We're bringing a lot of players through and as a club that's the exciting part."

The mobilisation of the club's long-underperforming pathways is a great sign for the club's long-term future, just as the Leichhardt Oval redevelopment will be a way to bring the club's storied past into that same future.

But a fan can't survive on a diet of stadium deals and junior development. They need the red meat of victories and even the staunchest Tigers person can't go on hope forever.

It's meant to rain on Saturday. The ones who show up will be the hardest of the hardcore, the type for whom faith is not a choice. It won't be hope that brings them there, but instinct.

The Tigers are in the midst of the third-longest losing streak in their history, which wouldn't be of much note if the top two hadn't both happened within the past two seasons.

They're looking a third-straight wooden spoon directly in the eye. Jarome Luai and Sunia Turuva will arrive next year and the injury toll can't last forever but, as unlikely as it seems, this still might get a little bit worse before it gets better.

A win over the Titans alone won't get them out of their problems, but if you can't get out of it you might as well get into it.

Marshall is sure they're on the right path and promises they will not deviate no matter how loud the noise becomes. With his manner, you believe it when he says it and it's a good thing too, because belief is all that's left right now.

"When you're in this position you know what you're taking on. If the results aren't there you're going to cop the flak and you have to deal with that," Marshall said.

"I will say in my career before I lived the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, this is not different to what I've experienced before.

"But the good thing about footy is you get to come out and play and do your job. We have a plan that's very clear on where we're going and we'll stick to that, regardless of what people say.

"People in the media have their opinion, that's what they're paid to do, and when you're not winning that amplifies a lot of things."

'He wants to stay': Marshall hoses down Galvin release talk as Tigers chase a win for the true believers (2024)

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