For the Wests Tigers, missing out on the top eight overshadows the many positives which has come from their 2018 season. If 2018 is a preview for what they can offer in 2019, their finals drought should be over.
2018 Club Record
Competition Points: 26 – Pts for: 377 Pts against: 460
2018 Player Achievements
Kelly-Barnes Award for the Player of the Year: Luke Brooks
Most Tries: Corey Thompson – nine (40th overall in NRL)
Most Points: Esan Marsters – 124 (14th overall in NRL)
For many the Wests Tigers finishing in ninth place was a surprise, after losing three of their four big name players after 2017. The club had been very active in the player market, bolstering their forwards and halves with experienced players, though many saw this year as another rebuilding season, not expecting the team to gel and perform with so many new faces.
The first seven rounds saw the Tigers sitting well within the top four, after knocking over eventual 2018 premiers Sydney Roosters in round one, and 2017 seasons premiers Melbourne twice. The Tigers’ defence was the talking point of the league in the early rounds; they have never been renowned as a defensive team, but whatever coach Ivan Cleary had installed in them over the pre-season was working and the Tigers were showing signs they could be a serious threat.
Unfortunately, they couldn’t keep this effort for the entire season. They had come out of the blocks too hard early on, and looked a tired team in the middle of the season. Losing three close games in succession between round 8 – 11 showed signs the Tigers were tiring, though it wasn’t until round 15 when they experienced a heavy loss against the Raiders that their season begin to slip away.
The Tigers were lacking speed, and multiple changes at fullback and in the hooking position began to impact them as the season progressed. Hookers Jacob Liddle and new recruit Pita Godinet were unable to provide much attacking options, while Tui Lolohea’s form was also inconsistent.
The decision by Cleary to purchase Moses Mbye and Robbie Farah mid-season was to stimulate the team; starting off with a loss at Leichhardt against the Titans in round 16, the Tigers’ “never-give up” defence returned in round 18 with consecutive wins against the current first-placed Dragons, and then the Rabbitohs. The wins saw experts predicting a possible late run into the finals – having dropped out of the eight – unfortunately this wasn’t to be.
A season-ending injury to Josh Reynolds early on may have impacted on the team’s plans, though it allowed Benji Marshall to step up and star after five years out of the Tigers. Corey Thompson’s season-ending injury came just as the Tigers were getting their season back on track. The winger/fullback was amazing throughout the season in defence and attack.
It was Luke Brooks who stood out. One of only two players who played every game this season, Brooks lead the team, and had his best season to date, finishing third overall in the Dally Ms, and crowned Halfback of the Year; he also took out the Wests Tigers Player of the Year.
Unfortunately – as seems to be a trend at the Tigers in recent times – talk of coaching changes have again risen after an approach from the Panthers for Cleary’s services from 2021. This has since been confirmed, with Cleary signing on with the Panthers from season 2021, which leaves the Tigers with a decision on whether to continue with Cleary or cut ties now.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
Brooks has been a stand out player of the season for the Tigers, with Thompson and Chris Lawrence following close behind. Brooks was well deserved in winning the Dally M Halfback of the Year and Wests Tigers Player of the year, achieving career-high season totals in run metres, forced dropouts, offloads and more. He finished the year with five tries, 10 try assists and 15 line breaks assists to his name, as well as more than 5,000 kick metres.
2019 GAINS AND LOSSES
Oliver Clark (Penrith Panthers, 2020), Robbie Farah (South Sydney Rabbitohs, 2019), Ryan Matterson (Sydney Roosters, 2021),
Moses Mbye (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs, 2022), Paul Momirovski (Sydney Roosters, 2020).
JJ Felise, Pita Godinet (released), Tim Grant (Penrith Panthers), Tuimoala Lolohea (Leeds Rhinos), Matt McIlwrick (South Sydney Rabbitohs),
Taane Milne (released), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens RLFC), Bayley Sironen (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Sauaso Sue (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (released).