After finishing 13th and missing the finals for a tenth consecutive season, the Wests Tigers have a tough task ahead of them if they intend to turn around their fortunes in the 2022 season.
2022 TIGERS SQUAD
Shawn Blore, Luke Brooks, Adam Doueihi, Luke Garner, Oliver Gildart, Jackson Hastings, William Kei, Asu Kepaoa, Daine Laurie, Luciano Leilua, Jacob Liddle, Jock Madden, Ken Maumalo, Thomas Mikaele, Zane Musgrove, David Nofoaluma, Joe Ofahengaue, Henry O’Kane, Tyrone Peachey, Apisalome Saukuru, Alex Seyfarth, Jake Simpkin, Tukimihia Simpkins, Tommy Talau, James Tamou, Starford To’a, Kelma Tuilagi, Brandon Tumeth, Junior Tupou, Alex Twal, Stefano Utoikamanu.
KEY SIGNINGEmbed from Getty Images
Jackson Hastings stands out as the biggest signing in a relatively quiet offseason for the Tigers. He is coming off some fantastic form in the English Super League which saw him mature as a footballer and win the 2019 Man of Steel award. After a four-year stint overseas, Hastings will make his return to the NRL after previous stints at the Roosters and Sea-Eagles. In the absence of Adam Doueihi, coach Michael Maguire has indicated Hastings will start at five-eighth, playing alongside Luke Brooks in the halves.
KEY PLAYEREmbed from Getty Images
One of the biggest keys to the Tigers in season 2022 will be the progress of Stefano Utoikamanu. Last season saw Stefano take some big strides and prove to the NRL he belongs. This year the Tigers will be hoping for him to act as the spearhead of the forward pack and get them on the front foot. If he can lead the forwards to lay a solid platform, it gives the spine the best chance of executing the game plan.
PLAYER TO WATCHEmbed from Getty Images
Kelma Tuilagi is player we haven’t seen too much of in the NRL, but if the glimpses we saw at the end of last year are any indication, Tuilagi will be a handful. While the season-ending ACL injury to Shawn Blore was a devastating blow for the Tigers, Tuilagi stands to be the biggest benefactor. He now has an opportunity to cement a spot on the bench and make an impact as the damaging ball runner the Tigers have been looking for. One to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Storm (H), Knights (A), Warriors (H), Titans (A), Sharks (A), Eels (A), Rabbitohs (H), Dragons (A), Sea Eagles (A), Cowboys (Magic Round), Bulldogs (H), Rabbitohs (A), Sea Eagles (H), Bulldogs (A), Warriors (A), Eels (H), Panthers (H), Cowboys (A), Broncos (A), Knights (H), Sharks (H), Roosters (A), Dragons (H), Raiders (H)
A big blow for the first half of the season is Adam Doueihi missing from the line-up as he recovers from an ACL injury. He was a huge part of the spark which ignited some of the Tigers’ best performances last season. With a friendly draw on paper however, there are hopes the Tigers can still manage to at least breakeven until Doueihi returns mid-season.
A lot rests on the shoulders of fresh imports Jackson Hastings and Oliver Gildart to rejuvenate this Tigers side. Particular emphasis will be on how quickly Hastings develops his combinations with the existing spine of Daine Laurie, Luke Brooks and Jacob Liddle. We may see the fluidity of the Tigers attack stutter in the early rounds as the players adjust to one another. This will mean the forward pack and defence will need to be at their best to avoid a slow start. Defence being a key focus area the Tigers need to tighten up if they want to compete with the top sides.
One factor going in their favour is expectations have been set relatively low with a roster that doesn’t look like a top eight side. Currently considered one of the teams who will finish towards the bottom of the ladder, the Tigers thirst for finals footy may be extended another year if they aren’t able to markedly improve on last year’s 13th place finish.
Best Seventeen-man Squad
- Daine Laurie
- David Nofoaluma
- Oliver Gildart
- Starford To’a
- Ken Maumalo
- Jackson Hastings
- Luke Brooks
- Stefano Utoikamanu
- Jacob Liddle
- James Tamou
- Luke Garner
- Luciano Leilua
- Alex Twal
- Tyrone Peachey
- Joe Ofahengaue
- Alex Seyfarth
- Thomas Mikaele
- Kelma Tuilagi