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Webster at home in Leichhardt coach debut

NZN 25/03/2017 Scott Bailey

Andrew Webster's coaching career has already gone full circle and he's yet lead the Wests Tigers in his first NRL game in charge.

Webster will coach the Tigers in the top grade for the first time on Sunday - against Melbourne - at Leichhardt Oval, the same ground home he enjoyed his first major success at in 2012.

On that occasion it was his first coaching gig, where he helped lead a Balmain team spearheaded by halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks to the Tigers' first SG Ball title in 30 years.

Five years later, he'll rely on the same pair - along with captain Aaron Woods and fullback James Tedesco - to help lead the Tigers' out of their latest coaching debacle.

"The players have been great the whole time," Webster said on Saturday.

"They realise they have to play better. They're comfortable with that.

"They're making a real emphasis this week that we stay close."

Webster's first week as an NRL coach has been anything but smooth sailing.

After taking over from the sacked Jason Taylor on Monday, he said it took until Thursday before it sunk in that he was leading the team for the first time.

Since those days as Tigers' SG Ball coach, he took over the Tigers under-20s program in 2014 before heading to the Warriors as an assistant in 2015 and 2016.

However, he returned to the Tigers over the summer and was surprised to take the reins less than a month in to the NRL season.

"It's not something I knew was coming or thought would come," Webster said.

"You don't want to get the job in these circumstances but you've got a lot of good people in the club around me supporting me this week."

Despite the successive floggings at the hands of Penrith and Canberra, Webster says he has changed very little about the team's line up or style for the Storm clash.

The Tigers will focus largely on minimising errors, which Webster blames for putting extra pressure on their defence as they have conceded 82 points in the past fortnight.

"We didn't want to make wholesale changes," Webster said.

"Obviously some disappointment and people aren't happy with the way their playing ... We give everyone a chance to prove themselves."

As for his own future, Webster will have to wait until after Sunday's game to discover his short-term fate.

Ivan Cleary is believed to be close to signing with the club, with reports he could be announced as early as next week.

That is despite talk of the position being a poisoned chalice - with no former coach of the merged club getting another NRL head-coaching gig after their sacking.

"You'd be mad not to want to work at this club and work with these players," Webster said.

"On Monday I'll turn up and ask a few more questions after this game but I'm not looking forward too far and sending the wrong message to the players."

Meanwhile, Matt Ballin's run of outs at the Tigers continues with the hooker ruled out of action with a toe injury suffered at training.

STATS THAT MATTER

* Teams with new mid-season coaches have won just one of the past seven NRL matches.

* The Tigers have the worst attacking record in the NRL this season, scoring just 42 points.

* Melbourne have the best defensive record in the NRL this season, conceding just 28 points in the first three rounds.

Source: Fox Sports Stats

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