Brendan Wood reviews the 2023 Season of the Wests Tigers where they finished seventeenth on the ladder.
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Bula Shines Bright in Dark Season for Tigers
Season 2023 started out as a year that promised to bring the Tigers out of the darkness. New signings Api Koroisau, John Bateman, David Klemmer, Isaiah Papali’i, and return of Tim Sheens as coach had Tigers fans hoping for a return to the glory days of 2005. Unfortunately for the Tigers and their fans, those glory days remained firmly in the past, as the club struggled their way to their second consecutive wooden spoon finish.
In their opening two months they slipped to a 0-6 record, which featured close losses to the Knights, Bulldogs and Eels. In round 6 – just before their first bye – the Tigers suffered a cruel injury blow when Adam Doueihi was struck down with his second ACL injury in as many seasons. This was a crushing blow for both Doueihi and the club, but from his misfortune came opportunity for a young star to emerge.
Undoubtedly the biggest bright spot of the season was rookie sensation Jahream Bula, who dazzled the NRL from the moment he made his debut in round 8. A nominee for the NRL’s Rookie of the Year award, Bula stepped into the fullback role and was impressive from the get go. It was no coincidence that shortly after Bula debuted, the Tigers enjoyed a purple patch of form, which included their first win of the year against defending premiers Penrith 12-8 in Bathurst. Their run was capped off by a historic 66-18 victory over the Cowboys at Leichhardt Oval, the most points scored in one game in Wests Tigers history.
That was where the Tigers” season peaked. In round 15 they suffered two more injury blows: Api Koroisau with a broken jaw and Luke Brooks with a hamstring strain. With the starting spine in tatters, the Tigers struggled the rest of the season, losing 12 of their last 13 games. This included an embarrassing 74-0 defeat at the hands of the Cowboys. Their final win came in round 25 against the Dolphins, when Koroisau skimmed a late penalty goal over the crossbar to get his team home by one.
Key Player Stats
Most Try Assists: 9, Api Koroisau
Most Line-breaks: 23, Junior Tupou
Most Run Metres: 3347, David Klemmer
Most Post Contact Metres: 1,021, Isaiah Papali’i
Most Tackles: 772, John Bateman
Most Errors: 27, Junior Tupou