The Newsroom previews each team for the 2015 National Rugby League season. Today, the West Tigers.
The Tigers are entering the 2015 season with a lot of question marks. Their depth in the forwards is a problem while they have inexperienced and injury prone players in the halves and at fullback. 2015 will be a season spent on analysing whether those players can take the Tigers to a premiership.
Last season – 13th place
In: Josh Drinkwater (Broncos), Matthew Lodge (Storms), Kevin Naiqama (Panthers), Brenden Santi (Eels), John Sila (Bulldogs), Chance Peni (Knights).
Out: Braith Anasta, Liam Fulton, Cory Paterson (Retired), Adam Blair, James Gavet (Broncos), Jarred Farlow (French Rugby), Blake Austin (Raiders), Bodene Thompson (Warriors).
Strengths: The Tigers possess explosive players at key positions. They combine the halves pairing of Luke Brooks and Mitch Moses with James Tedesco at fullback, which gives them exciting young players to build around in the future. Captain Robbie Farah brings representative experience and a proven track record as a leader to the young squad.
Weaknesses: The lack of depth on the squad is concerning, particularly in the backrow. The Tigers lost backrowers Adam Blair, Bodene Thompson, James Gavet, Liam Fulton and Braith Anasta in the offseason. That leaves the Tigers with Curtis Sironen, Dean Halatau and Sauaso Sue as their starters which could be a problem against the bigger forward packs in the league like the Rabbitohs or the Bulldogs.
Key player: Tie: James Tedesco and Luke Brooks. This needs to be the season where James Tedesco proves he can play a full season without injury. He has had knee problems ever since he made his debut in 2012 and can’t seem to ditch the injury bug. For the Tigers to be successful, halfback Luke Brooks needs to step up and reach his full potential. Hopefully he can do that sooner rather than later.
Coach: Jason Taylor. The Tigers dumped head coach Mick Potter in the offseason and gave the gig to Jason Taylor. At just 44 years of age, Taylor is one of the youngest coaches in the NRL and will be able to connect well with the young squad. His ability to connect with the team when times get tough will be a key component this season.
Prediction: 10th. The Tigers will be unpredictable this season, but not even the craziest fan can comfortably tip them to make the top eight at season’s end. – Lachlan Brunton.
Top photo from Nicholas’ Flickr photostream.