2018 Review: Wests Tigers

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Our eighth 2018 NRL club review takes a look at the season endured by Wests Tigers fans - one that started with a heap of promise but crashed and burned quickly. Andrew Ferguson analyses what went right, and what went wrong out west.

The Wests Tigers were the biggest unknown entity coming into the 2018 season. They had yet another new head coach in Ivan Cleary, who had taken the reigns midway through 2017, while the playing and coaching rosters received their biggest overhauls ever.

They lost club juniors James Tedesco, Aaron Woods and Mitch Moses, choosing to bring in a large number of new faces, such as Mahe Fonua, Pita Godinet, Chris McQueen, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Josh Reynolds, Robbie Rochow and Corey Thompson, as well as the return of prodigal son Benji Marshall. Midway through the season the club also added Moses Mbye and welcomed back prodigal son #2 in Robbie Farah.

It wasn't clear how the Tigers would fare, but from the very outset, they showed a dogged defensive style which surprised everyone. Tasked with the hardest draw in the opening rounds of any side, the Tigers managed to win low scoring games against eventual Premiers the Roosters in Round 1, and the Grand Final runners-up Melbourne Storm, twice in Rounds 2 and 5. They suffered a controversial loss in Golden Point to the Broncos in Round 3. They then lost eight of their next ten games before bouncing back in a last-dash run to reach the finals, winning five of their last eight games, but they fell short and were out of contention with a week remaining, finishing in 9th place.

The club ended up ranking third for least number of tries conceded, behind Grand Finalists Melbourne and Premiers Roosters.

Turning point

Round 7 v Newcastle. - The Tigers had been impressive over the first 6 weeks, losing once in a controversial manner, and after having put a struggling Manly side away 38-12 the week prior. They then suffered a heart-breaking loss to an improved Knights side, conceding the match winning try in the dying stages of the match. They then lost by 2 points again the following week against last placed Eels. Two games they should have won which would've changed the complexity of their season immensely.

What worked

Defence. For a long time the Tigers defence was unreliable at best, but in 2018, they just kept turning up, with just 2 blowouts, when they lost 48-12 to Canberra in Round 15 and the 51-10 loss to Souths in the last match, when their season was already over.

What didn't

Long known for being a side who could rack up cricket scores on a good day, the 2018 Tigers managed to scored more than 22 points in a game just 3 times. They had the second worst attack, barely better than wooden spooners Parramatta. The Eels scored 374 points, while the Tigers had 377.

Best player

Luke Brooks had by far his best season in the NRL. With the controlling Moses no longer stifling his game, Brooks took control of the side and played with confidence all year. He was consistent and started to deliver on his huge potential, confirmed by the fact he very nearly became the Dally M Player of the Year.

Disappointing player

Tui Lolohea was brought to the club in 2017, with the intention of having him replace Tedesco as the clubs custodian, but after a disappointing start to the year, he was replaced by winger Corey Thompson, relegated to lower grades and then the club secured the services of Bulldogs fullback Moses Mbye.

Rookie player

Esan Marsters made his debut in 2017, but was so immensely improved in 2018 that he earned himself selection in the New Zealand Test side. A powerful centre with good hands, he proved to be real handful for his opponents all year.

Feeder club round-up

The Western Suburbs Magpies finished the regular season in 5th place on the NSWRL Intrust Super Premiership table. The Magpies then lost to Wyong 18-14 in the first week of the finals to bow out of the Premiership race.

The Wests Tigers' Under 20 side competing in the Jersey Flegg Cup underperformed massively, winning just two games all season and finishing comfortable wooden spooners.

Looking ahead

The Tigers playing roster has had few changes, but the few made have been very good. Rookie centre Paul Momirovski and prodigious utility player Ryan Matterson, both from the Roosters, will join the club in 2019. It will also be a year where the club is expected to farewell club icons Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah, both of whom could well reach the 300 NRL games milestone in 2019.

There is some uncertainty though - the coach. Despite signing a long deal in 2017, Ivan Cleary has been courted and caught by Penrith to take over as coach when his time at the Tigers ends. Speculation suggests that Tigers may look to replace Cleary immediately instead of keep him on board, knowing his thoughts are likely on his future club and not his current one.

Potential 2019 lineup

(based on current signings)

1. Moses Mbye
2. Corey Thompson
3. Esan Marsters
4. Paul Momirovski
5. David Nofoaluma
6. Josh Reynolds
7. Luke Brooks
8. Russell Packer
9. Robbie Farah
10. Ben Matulino
11. Chris Lawrence
12. Ryan Matterson
13. Elijah Taylor

14. Alex Twal
15. Matt Eisenhuth
16. Benji Marshall
17. Josh Aloiai

2018 Results

1
Wests Tigers 10
Sydney Roosters 8
W
2
Melbourne Storm 8
Wests Tigers 10
W
3
Wests Tigers 7
Brisbane Broncos 9
L
4
Wests Tigers 30
Parramatta Eels 20
W
5
Wests Tigers 11
Melbourne Storm 10
W
6
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 12
Wests Tigers 38
W
7
Wests Tigers 20
Newcastle Knights 22
L
8
Parramatta Eels 24
Wests Tigers 22
L
9
Warriors 26
Wests Tigers 4
L
10
Wests Tigers 20
North Queensland Cowboys 12
W
11
Penrith Panthers 16
Wests Tigers 2
L
12
Wests Tigers 14
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 10
W
13
Sydney Roosters 16
Wests Tigers 14
L
14
Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks 24
Wests Tigers 16
L
15
Wests Tigers 12
Canberra Raiders 48
L
16
Wests Tigers 12
Gold Coast Titans 30
L
17
Wests Tigers 0
BYE
18
St George Illawarra Dragons 16
Wests Tigers 20
W
19
Wests Tigers 22
South Sydney Rabbitohs 6
W
20
Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs 16
Wests Tigers 4
L
21
Newcastle Knights 16
Wests Tigers 25
W
22
Canberra Raiders 20
Wests Tigers 22
W
23
Wests Tigers 10
St George Illawarra Dragons 20
L
24
Wests Tigers 22
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 20
W
25
South Sydney Rabbitohs 51
Wests Tigers 10
L

By the Stats

26
Competition Points
12
Matches Won
0
Matches Drawn
12
Matches Lost
377
Points Scored
460
Points Conceded