Record (W-L-D): 10-14-0
Top Pointscorer: Pat Richards (145 points)
Top Tryscorer: Pat Richards (9 tries)
The 2014 NRL season can be seen as another one which slipped away for Wests Tigers. Having not made the finals since 2011, the Tigers went into the season as one of the favourites for the wooden spoon. However, throughout the season there were glimpses that they would well-and-truly surpass that and even push for a top four position.
Finishing the season in 13th place after 10 wins and 14 losses is an improvement from last season but as was the case in 2013, injuries ravaged the squad. The depth was better for the joint-venture club this season and coach Michael Potter had the ability to shape his squad over the off-season. Although the new signings, particularly Pat Richards and Martin Taupau, added real firepower to the side, long-term injuries to James Tedesco, Braith Anasta and the retirement of Liam Fulton mid-season meant at times they relied on second-rowers on the wing.
Wins against some of the top sides in the competition including two of the top four, Manly and Souths Sydney, will give the team good confidence for next season. The future of Potter has yet to been decided and come the start of off-season the coaching situation should be sorted.
There were many good signs to take out of the 2014 season. While it was seen as a ‘rebuilding year’, the development of the young players who made their debut this season will give fans confidence for the near and distant future.
A lot of talk and pressure was heaped on young halfback Luke Brooks before the season. Regarded by many experts as ‘the next Andrew Johns’, the Leichhardt Wanderers junior also had the unenviable task of replacing one of the sides most influential players, Benji Marshall. The NRL rookie of the year has not been named yet but it would be hard to argue if he was to win it this season with 12 try assists, 9 linebreak assists and 6 tries.
Brooks was not the only shining light in a somewhat disappointing season. The rise of Asipeli Fine and Mitchell Moses along with the further development of Curtis Sironen, Blake Austin and Aaron Woods means the side will be well equipped for next season.
All of those players showed glimpses of their quality, there was one player who played every game and could be seen as one of the best bargain buys this season. Martin Taupau was an absolute star for the Tigers this year and his outstanding form early in the season saw him rewarded with his New Zealand debut. His impact off the bench along with the other forwards in Ava Seumanufagai, Sauaso Sue and James Gavet gave the side a dynamic attack off the bench and kept the pressure on opposition sides for 80 minutes.
As stated earlier wins against Souths and Manly really highlighted the clubs intent as a genuine premiership possibility. The win against Manly in particular was impressive given that the side was constantly criticised for their size ambushed the Manly pack and drove them back all game.
The good signs for the future were there but as it seems with the Tigers every season, some sort of off-field distraction affects the on-field results. If it wasn’t the future of the coaching staff being debated, it was the lack of management at the board level. As a Tigers fan you begin to expect something to stop the team from fulfilling their full potential and this year it was actually more than one.
First of all, the whole Robbie Farah-Gordon Tallis feud was a joke. It wasn’t needed and it can be considered that both sides were at fault. Tallis didn’t need to reveal what Farah said and all Robbie had to do was directly throw his support behind the coach and it would have been settled. He didn’t and the side would go on to lose six games in a row and finish the season well and truly out of finals contention.
In recent days a new board has been named and this is a step in the right direction for the club as now there can’t be many more excuses to sort the off-field dramas with the club out. Once the coaching situation is sorted out the Tigers can look forward to hopefully a more successful 2015.
The Future: 2015
The future looks bright for 2015 and beyond. With a spine that reads James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses, Luke Brooks and Robbie Farah, most sides would love that attacking potential. Providing injuries doesn’t affect Tedesco as much as this year, the team looks set for a big season.
Depth in the outside backs has been an issue this season and with the rumour going around that the club has signed Panthers winger Kevin Naiqama for next season, another decent option out wide will help.
The forwards have improved beyond belief and now having added under 20s NSW forward Matt Lodge mid-season, the fight for positions next season will be fierce.
Overall, despite Liam Fulton, Braith Anasta and Cory Patterson retiring at the end of the season and not adding any new players, it will still allow the young players to develop further and give even more an opportunity to make their mark.
This year can be written off because of injury and off-field issues but if the CEO and board feel a new coach is needed then they need to make the top eight or the work that Mick Potter has put in the two years will have been for nothing.