SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 03: Aaron Woods of the Tigers is applauded as he leaves the field after playing his final game for the Tigers during the round 26 NRL match between the Wests Tigers and the New Zealand Warriors at Leichhardt Oval on September 3, 2017 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Predicted Finish: 14th

Actual Finish: 14th

Best Performer: David Nofoaluma

Elijah Taylor ran a very close second after his brilliant season, but for mine, it was the sensational winger Nofoalumo who led the way for the Tigers in 2017. He topped the try-scoring ranks (tied with Kevin Naiqama) with seven, while also topping the line breaks tally with 13 (tied with Tedesco).

Although his flashy brilliance was no doubt the highlight for fans, it was his ability to eat up the metres which made him all the more important. He ran for 3933 metres across his 23 appearances, almost a massive 500 more than any other Tiger.

Considering his was often bringing the ball out from his own end, that is a mighty impressive stat.

Season Highlight: Round 1 victory over the Rabbitohs

The Tigers only recorded seven wins in 2017 so this was slim pickings, but the round one victory over the Bunnies was a beauty. A 34-18 scoreline combined with all the fun that was had of getting one over Robbie Farah made for a memorable afternoon.

James Tedesco can riot, delivering a huge victory over his Queensland counterpart Greg Inglis. Moses Suli, on debut, laid on a beautiful try assist to Seumanufagai. Jamal Idris returned to the game following a few seasons out.

All the signs were very positive. Unfortunately, it would prove a false dawn, but on that day the Tigers played a beautiful brand of footy.

Best Signing: Josh Reynolds

The Tigers set out looking for a running half with aggression to compliment the ball playing Luke Brooks. They succeeded in achieving that, in spades, in signing former Origin half Josh Reynolds.

Blunted massively over the past season at the Dogs, this is a brilliant opportunity for both player and club to start a new. People seem to forget that Reynolds led the Blues to an Origin victory just a few seasons ago, focusing more on Des Hasler’s frustrating game plan instead. Make no mistake, Reynolds is a brilliant footballer and has the exact temperament the Tigers need. They were bossed around the park for the majority of 2017.

With an improved forward pack and one aggressive five-eighth, I don’t know if that will be the case moving forward. Reynolds compliments Brooks far better than Moses ever did. This is a smart, smart signing.

Positives

New faces have arrived: The Tigers have recruited big and they have recruited well. They replaced Woods in Matulino and Packer (signing both for under the reported salary Woods signed for at the Dogs), Moses with Reynolds, and Tedesco with Lolohea. That’s not a bad swap overall.

They also added Fonua, McQueen, Milne, Rochow and Twal. Throw in returning club legend Benji Marshall and that’s not a bad haul. Although they’re not monster names, they do present Ivan Cleary with options, something he didn’t really have in 2017.

Despite the loss of Tedesco, I’d argue the 2018 Tigers, at least on paper, are a more balanced and stronger side.

Stability (finally): The Tigers have seen coaches come, promise the world, then leave without delivering. In the public eye, Jason Taylor was backed in over Robbie Farah last season yet released just a few weeks into 2017.

In appointing Ivan Cleary, the Tigers sent a message. You’re either on the bus, or you’re off it. A clever marketing campaign that has seen members rally around their club but something that has shown a great deal of support for their new coach. The Tigers really need to back a long-term coach and in Cleary, they have their man. He did wonders for the Warriors and had some success at the Panthers before Gould grew impatient.

Stability is the key moving forward. Finally, the Tigers have latched on.

Distractions Gone: As talented as they are, Woods, Tedesco and Moses were a distraction. The absolute media circus surrounding their will they/won’t they re-signing drama was a horror to watch. I can only imagine how Tigers fans felt.

Although the smart money would have been on at least two of the supposed ‘big four’ staying on, the cards did not fall that way and the club’s three biggest profile players are gone. I see this as a positive for the Tigers.

There was a huge over-reliance on Tedesco, Woods workload was way over the top, and Moses never lived up to the hype until he moved clubs. No more excuses, no more distractions. Those who re-signed, or signed, are firmly on board. This can only be a good thing.

Season Grading: D

For all the positives in 2017, you only need to look at one stat to sum up the true Tigers season. Their longest winning streak in 2017 was one game. Not once in the entire season did they record back-to-back victories. It is impossible to play finals footy with that stat hovering.

The club set out with a goal to re-sign their four biggest names, however, ended up securing just one in Luke Brooks. I’m not sure that’s as negative as it sounds given the work they have done to recruit replacements, but ultimately that has to be seen as a failure.

2017 won’t be remembered in a positive light for Tigers fans. I struggled to name the best player, not through competition, but due to the lack of anyone having a stand out season. I might be being harsh given the efforts of Taylor, Tedesco and Nofoaluma, but they’ll need someone to take control of this team in 2018 and beyond.

2017 results wise was an F, even an F- is that were possible, but the hard work is done off the field driving membership numbers up, securing some real talent moving forward, and showing support for a coach (finally) brings the score up slightly to a D. Short term pain for long-term gain seems to be the theory in Tiger town.

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