Wests Tigers Stats
2013 Record: 7 wins from 24 premiership games (15th placed)
5-year record: 60 wins from 120 premiership games (50% win record)
Arrivals: Pat Richards, Dene Halatau, Cory Patterson, Martin Taupau, Blake Austin, Keith Lulia.
Departures: Benji Marshall, Blake Ayshford, Lote Tiquiri, Joel Reddy, Eddy Pettybourne, Matt Groat, Jacob Miller, Brenden Santi, Shaun Spence.
Coach: Mick Potter
Fixtures to start and end 2014
First five fixtures: Dragons (A), Titans (A), Rabbitohs (H), Warriors (A), Eagles (H)
Final five fixtures: Cowboys (A), Roosters (H), Bulldogs (A), Raiders (A), Sharks (H)
When skimming over the 2013 form of NRL sides, factoring in gains and losses and not really paying attention to details, the Tigers seem like a good thing for the wooden spoon. If you are planning on using 2013 as a form guide, then I suggest you rip it up.
The Wests Tigers enter 2014 on the back of two poor seasons in a row, a roster shake up was desperately needed, and that is exactly what happened. As far as using 2013 as a form guide, rip it up and throw it away. In 2013, the Tigers used ten debutants, with five of those still being eligible for the under 20’s competition. On average the club had ten first graders out every week during 2013 (unfortunately this number isn’t exaggerated), eventually equating to over 110 games missed by the club’s top twenty-five players.
The Tigers have been hampered almost every year of their existence with boardroom fighting, Balmain and Wests not ‘seeing eye to eye’ and an alarming lack of depth. The work of the new CEO and staff at the club has turned problems which plagued the club for fifteen years around in six months. The Tigers will take the field in 2014 with over forty players having played in the NRL, couple that with rising stars and they are left with a strong squad with plenty of ‘upside’.
The youth the Tigers have brought into the squad have enjoyed great success in the Holden Cup, NSW Cup as well as the SG Ball (Back to Back National Champions) and GIO Schoolboy competitions (2013 Champions). It’s time the success transferred over to the NRL setup.
Key Player: Robbie Farah
Benji Marshall may have been the chief playmaker for many years, but the fact is that in 2013 that role was taken by Farah. His early season form, in a successful team, would have created a lot of talk about his aspirations for the ANZAC Test and higher personal honours. Unfortunately, being in an under-performing team coupled with an incredible injury list led to Farah being overlooked as a form player early in the season. Farah managed to average forty-two tackles per game in 2013, as well as being the best option for the side when creating near the opponent’s line or working for a repeat set. He stormed out of the gates with twelve try assists early on which had him near the top of the list in the entire competition. The loss of Marshall may impact the club from an off-field perspective, but with Farah running the show, a team made up largely of young talent and a new coaching structure, the club can only improve.
Players in for a big 2014:
As he did towards the back end of 2013, the 20 year old will figure in the back row in 2014. After a big preseason in which he has stacked on 5 kilograms, Sironen is ready to make his mark on the NRL. Standing at 195cm and weighing 106 kgs, the youngster has uncapped potential. With a great offload and playmaking ability, Sironen is almost the complete package. If the halves can play direct like they did in the one game where they featured as a combination in 2014, Sironen will be afforded the space and room to hit the line hard and create havoc for the opposition.
Everyone has had their turn at kicking Blair while he is down. Coming from arguably the most structured sporting team in Australia, there was a set game plan which the halves would abide by. This gave Blair a chance to play his own game, hit holes in defence and know what the halves were working to in a set of six. When he joined the Tigers he found himself being used a decoy runner and being given the ball on the back foot while the halves ran side to side, which a lot of the time had Blair standing around, unsure of what his role was and unsure of what the plan was for that set of six as well as creating no space for any of the forwards. The club took in an impact player who hit the line hard, and turned him into a completely different player. Throughout his career at the Storm he was a never a “20 hitups, 40 tackles” player either, the direct game plan in 2014 suits Blair and with Kidwell now at the club, it provides him with the style of game he is used to, and the style of game that made him such a great player.
What to expect
The success of the side in 2014 will depend on the form of the senior players. In 2013, the side was carried by some up and coming talent week in, week out, but let down by some poor decisions by senior players. The Tigers really are the ‘unknown’ in 2014. A direct approach instead of the ‘razzle dazzle’, youngsters who will only get better and a harder edge in defence brought in by David Kidwell.
I expect a mid-table finish for the Wests Tigers in 2014, where exactly depends on the injury list and form of other sides in the competition. At the end of 2014, the club would have gained more admirers than what they had at the start of the season. Not only for the youth in the side, but also the style of game they will play.