Brendan Wood reviews the Wests Tigers season which saw them finish in 9th position on the ladder, narrowly missing out on the finals.
2019 Club Record
Competition Points: 24
2019 Player Achievements
Kelly-Barnes Club Player of the Year: Luke Brooks
Most Tries: Corey Thompson (9)
Most Points: Esan Marsters (112)
The first season for the Tigers under new coach Michael Maguire had plenty of ups and downs. With Maguire’s previous experience coaching South Sydney to a premiership in 2014, the expectations of a top eight birth were no doubt on the radar for a team that finished ninth last year under Ivan Cleary. With Maguire being a defensively-minded coach, the first expectation was to reduce the missed tackles and improve the defence. Last year the Tigers lead the competition in missed tackles. This year on Maguire’s watch, they only missed 622 tackles (third fewest in the competition) which is a phenomenal turnaround.
While their on field performances were at times brilliant, there were times the Tigers also lost their way. Throughout the year they found ways to lose some games they probably should have won, and fell short of the finals again. Goalkicking was a major factor in these losses, with first choice goal-kicker Esan Marsters struggling when needed (a 66 per cent conversion rate). They tried a few different options and eventually uncovered Paul Momirovski as their goalkicker towards the end of the year. Another ninth place finish will be disappointing, but it’s clear they are trending in the right direction under Maguire.
Momirovksi was one of a handful of players that broke into first grade team for the Tigers this year. Off-season recruit Ryan Matterson was outstanding in his first year with the club, turning into a real leader in the forward pack and coming close to State of Origin selection. Second row forward Luke Garner got his opportunity to start the season in place of an injured Chris Lawrence and made a big impact on the left edge. Another young forward to breakout in 2019 was Thomas Mikaele, who was awarded the Tigers Rookie of the Year award, playing 23 of a possible 24 games this year.
Injuries were cruel to a few Tigers this year, particularly in the last month of the season. Robbie Farah fractured his leg just after announcing this year will be his last. A week later, Jacob Liddle tore the ACL in his knee, ruling him out for the year. Having the top two hookers at the club ruled out for the final month of footy was a hindrance to the stability and momentum the Tigers were trying to build towards the finals.
NothingButLeague Player of the Season
Corey Thompson. He started the year on the wing, but once he moved to fullback the Tigers had found a clear favourite to take the number one jersey. With Thompson at the back, the Tigers look like a completely different team. He provides them with a spark of energy in both attack and defense and has evolved into one of the more elusive fullbacks in the competition. This is evidenced by Thompson finishing in the top five in the competition for kick return metres (1,113 metres). He led the Tigers in tries this year and won the Tigers’ Player’s Player of the Year award, meaning his teammates voted him as the best at the club in 2019.
2020 GAINS AND LOSSES
Reece Hoffman (2022), Jake Simpkin (2021)
Robbie Farah (retired), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Tyson Gamble (Redcliffe Dolphins), Robbie Rochow (retired)
Josh Aloiai (2021), Luke Brooks (2023), Michael Chee-Kam (2021), Jacob Liddle (2021), Thomas Mikaele (2021), Corey Thompson (2021), Benji Marshall (2020)