With the start of the season just around the corner, we take a look at how the Wests Tigers’ prospects are shaping up for 2019.
After finishing ninth and missing out on finals footy by a few wins under the guidance of Ivan Cleary, there is plenty of hope among the Tigers faithful that new coach Michael Maguire is the man to lead the Tigers to the finals for the first time since 2011.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW
Ryan Matterson (Sydney Roosters), Paul Momirovski (Sydney Roosters), Zane Musgrove (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Oliver Clark (Penrith Panthers), Sam McIntyre (promoted), Tom Mikaele (promoted)
JJ Collins (Canberra Raiders), Tim Grant (Penrith Panthers), Tuimoala Lolohea (Leeds Rhinos), Kevin Naiqama (St Helens), Sauaso Sue (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Bayley Sironen (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
Sea Eagles (H), Warriors (H), Bulldogs (H), Panthers (A), Broncos (A)
WHAT TO EXPECT
The expectations for Maguire as coach are to make the finals, it’s as simple as that. Anything less than that would be considered a backward step compared to last year’s ninth place finish. But is he the right man for the job? The Tigers desperately need some discipline and consistency to help them get to the post-season; if there’s one thing Maguire is known for, it’s exactly those two things. The defense of the Tigers was one of the most surprising things from last year, but at times was also their Achilles heel. They had the most missed tackles of any team last year (957) – the first area Maguire will need to address. Expect to see the same gritty defense we saw in glimpses last year, but on Maguire’s watch we should see them play that way for the full length of the season, and not fade in and out of games in patches like 2018.
The Tigers will field a young roster once again this year, but having a full off-season to prepare with each other will certainly help. At the forefront of their youth is Moses Mbye, who at 25 years old has been announced as the club captain for the 2019 season, which indicates the club is looking to the future. Last year one of the things that really hurt the Tigers was the lack of consistency in the spine, with Ivan Cleary opting to chop and change the lineup regularly if players were not performing. With Mbye as captain, this should mean he will start every game at fullback, and provide some much needed attacking flair and an X-factor for Luke Brooks and Benji Marshall to feed off, something that was lacking until the back end of the season.
Ryan Matterson and Paul Momirovski are two of the more exciting signings of the off-season for the Tigers. There are rumours circling that Momirovski has done enough to score himself the starting left centre spot, which speaks volumes considering he is competing with Mahe ‘The Mullett’ Fonua, and the fact he has only played one game of first grade so far. If he does end up getting that spot, expect him to bring plenty of grit and enthusiasm to the Tigers backline.
Matterson should lock down the right edge back row spot for himself, and should be getting close to 80 minutes in that position after playing many different roles at the Roosters last year. We’ve seen from his time at the Roosters that he can do some wonderful things when given the opportunity and game time – he was one of the leading try scorers in the early part of last season. He also has the ability to play multiple positions at a high level, so his flexibility will help if the Tigers are struck down badly by injury.
The Tigers have a pretty favourable draw. They are the only team in the competition to have three consecutive home games to start the season, and finish the year with their last six games in Sydney. Their toughest stretch comes from round eight to round eleven, where they play four games in a row against teams who finished fifth or better last year. This year the Tigers will not play a single home game at ANZ Stadium, and instead will head to the newly-opened Bankwest Stadium in Western Sydney, a ground they will play four home games at throughout the year, and one away game against the Eels.
Top Tryscorer – David Nofoaluma
Top Pointscorer – Esan Marsters
Club Player of the Year – Moses Mbye
WHERE WILL THE WESTS TIGERS FINISH IN 2019?
With a new coach in Michael Maguire, new captain in Moses Mbye, and a new ground to share home games in Bankwest Stadium, the Tigers have made some big changes as a club, and all of them for the better. Maguire has a wealth of coaching knowledge at his disposal, and will be able to use his experience to guide the young Tigers in the right direction, towards the post-season. If they can stay healthy, and stay consistent throughout the year, there is no reason why the Tigers should not be able to silence their doubters and make the big step into finals footy for the first time in almost a decade and possibly even go a few steps further.