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Tigers coach Cleary bullish about finals

NZN 3/04/2017 Steve Zemek

New Wests Tigers coach Ivan Cleary is adamant he can get can them back to the NRL finals this year but he's paddling against the tide of 50 years of history.

Cleary on Monday inked a deal which will run until the end of the 2020 NRL season and has been tasked with a rebuild similar to those he orchestrated at the Warriors and Penrith.

The Tigers have been a basket case affected by vicious in-fighting and political manoeuvring in recent years and Cleary becomes the club's fourth head coach since 2013.

After taking over from Jason Taylor, who was sacked just three weeks into the new season, he had a bunt message for those who would seek to destabilise the club for their own personal gain, telling them to "get on the bus".

He met the playing group for the first time at their Concord headquarters on Monday and faces a monumental task to return them to the top eight for the first time since 2011.

They are 1-4, in last spot and low on confidence after four successive losses.

No team in half a century has come from last after five rounds to qualify for the finals - the most recent team to mount such as comeback was Easts back in 1967, according to Fox Sports Stats.

Regardless, Cleary was bullish about his side's chances of playing September football.

Asked if top eight was feasible in 2017: "Yes".

Pressed on why he was confident, he said: "It's a long year. I can't answer that specifically because sometimes you do have to go backwards to go forwards - I'm not saying we do or we don't.

"But I'll know a little bit more over the next weeks and months."

He will take control of the strife-torn joint-venture club for Saturday's clash with North Queensland in Townsville.

Andrew Webster, who stood in as interim coach for two games following Taylor's sacking, will remain on as an assistant and Cleary said he would retain his current staff rather than bring in his own men.

He will be active in negotiations with off-contract stars Aaron Woods, James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks.

He comes to the Tigers with the reputation of someone who can revitalise a club, having taken the Warriors to the grand final in 2011 and returned the Panthers to the finals for the first time in four years in 2014.

He said his success would depend on whether everyone from the boardroom to the dressing room could get on the same page - a comment at the instability which had plagued the club.

"There's clearly some blockages in the program currently at the Wests Tigers and that's coming out on the field at the moment," Cleary said.

"Once I spend some time in the four walls of the Wests Tigers I'll be in a better position to see what path we're going to take.

"I'm confident that the program I can help deliver will get results in time. How long that's going to take - I'll find out over the next weeks and months."

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