“Don’t mention the war.” It’s a famous line by the character Basil in the English comedy Fawlty Towers – but that’s the way you feel when you’re at Tigers training when having to speak to either club legend Robbie Farah or head coach Jason Taylor.
It’s like seeing relatives that hate each other act civil at a Christmas lunch.
But this is every day.
The pair just don’t get on.
Nothing wrong with that in a working environment. Whether it be in an office, building site or anywhere there’s a group of head strong people in one place, conflict is bound to happen.
There’s times when certain people, that either in the first instance or over a period of time get under your skin.
It’s a little different if you’re trying to play or coach in the NRL and it becomes common knowledge.
It’s the latest chapter in an almost year-long dispute between the pair, after Taylor told Farah he was free to exit Concord at the end of last season.
The feud between Taylor and Farah has been traced back to October 2014 when the hooker was labelled “selfish” by JT after choosing to play for the Kangaroos instead of training with the Tigers.
After being called “selfish”, Farah replied “well, that is a decision you have never had to make” – which was a shot at Taylor’s own footballing career, which didn’t include rep footy.
There was a ceasefire for a while (although a former Tigers legend reliably informed me it was alway simmering under the surface) but it’s back in full swing after the proud number 9 returned from State of Origin duty with the Blues, only to find himself in reserve grade for his very next club match.
It’s a call that divides supporters.
I live in Balmain, the Tigers heartland, and whoever you run into has an opinion. My barber- “Get JT out, he’s ruining the joint.” My grocer -“Taylor is the coach, let him make his decisions. He’s the boss.”
Jason Taylor himself – “The decision was purely for the betterment of the team.”
It’s certainly worked so far.
Since the axing, his side has won its last three matches, putting them in finals contention with a handful of games left to play.
That would have been a pipe-dream earlier in the season, funnily enough when Farah was a regular starter.
So it seems Taylor has the upper hand at the moment because as a coach, you live and die by results. He also seem to have the players on the same page as him, even the Farah loyalists amongst them.
One year left on his contract makes this off- season for Farah interesting. He can choose to stay and sit it out- or go to another club. But that would require taking a pay cut.
It’s not like he’s a has-been or anything!
Blues coach Laurie Daley has every intention of picking him for Origin 2017 and with captain Paul Gallen retiring from that arena, throwing Robbie the skippers armband is even a possibility and he wouldn’t let anyone down either. He loves Origin.
“I want to lead this young group into a new era,” was Farah’s response to my question on if Origin Game III this year may be his last as a new generation was blooded by Daley.
I have in the past tried to get closer to Farah. Find out what makes him tick. Even tried to help it along by talking of his love for the Liverpool football club (a side I’m a fan of too) but alas, just when you think you’re making ground, he curls back up in his shell the next time you see him. Like the last conversation didn’t happen.
I was once told to treat him like a big cat in the wild. “Don’t go to him, let him approach you.” Well, I’m still waiting.
Going back to that reserve grade match at Leichhardt Oval, his guard went down. Emotion got the better of him after being mobbed by hundreds on the field at the end of the game and let rip to waiting journalists at the back of the grandstand.
Or was it a well rehearsed act of gaining sympathy? Another strategic part of his game plan against Taylor? A last throw of the dice perhaps?
“I can definitely say I have done my utmost to do what is required of me but it seems that nothing I do is good enough at the moment, he said.
“I have kept my mouth shut for the last couple of years and it is hard when you see stuff written about you, false stuff, and people saying stuff about you and I haven’t responded.
“I have just kept copping it on the chin and become a sucker for punishment.
“I have sat back and really there is nothing to gain by me saying anything. I will let my football do the talking.”
It’ll be interesting if that talking is in West Tigers colours from next season. That now remains to be seen.
But for the moment. We don’t mention the war.
Michael Cain is a senior rugby league journalist for Ten Eyewitness News in Sydney.