The Wests Tigers have pulled off some of the greatest recruitment in the club's history, but even with a world-class forward pack, Tim Sheens hasn't corrected the Tigers greatest weaknesses.
In a case of 'all the gear and no idea', the club struggled to leave their mark during the 22-10 loss to the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval, enjoying 56% possession and running 300 metres more than the Queensland club.
Despite missing John Bateman, the club still unveiled new recruits David Klemmer, Charlie Staines, Isaiah Papali'i, and new captain Apisai Koroisau, the last of which brought off the interchange bench in a late switch.
Starting clunky in attack, you could forgive Tigers' fans for thinking the game would turn on its head when Koroisau was injected, but the tide never really started to turn. Trailing 12-2 at the break, outside of Adam Doueihi, the club just couldn't create.
The five-eighth scored a solid solo try early in the second-half before putting Daine Laurie over the stripe, but they never built pressure, they never created opportunities, the side isn't looking the top eight contenders many have tipped them to aspire towards.
Yes, yes, it's Round 1, but these aren't new issues for the Wests Tigers. These are the issues fans had hoped Sheens was resolving.
Over and over during the pre-season, the media and fans continued to throw '2005' around as a buzzword in Concord, but this side doesn't have the ability to throw the ball around like their premiership-winning counterparts.
During the off-season, Zero Tackle's predicted 2023 ladder had the club sitting at 13th, and while the ranking seems low after such stellar recruitment, the words are beginning to ring true.
"Arguably the best recruitment in the NRL for this upcoming season, unfortunately losing has been ingrained into the Wests Tigers over the last decade, and that takes some time to shake out of your system," we wrote in January.
"Blessed with an unreal forward pack, however field position matters little if you don't know what to do with it. It all comes back to Luke Brooks. He needs to be dominant. Especially with so much uncertainty about their spine, it'll be a tough return for Tim Sheens."
That's the other major factor in this rebuild, losing is built into the club's DNA now. They haven't made the finals since 2011, over a decade ago, and have repeatedly snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
It's a hard thing to shake.
Luke Brooks is a magnet for criticism and he seems almost an easy target for fans looking to direct their frustrations, however he has to take some onus on this team.
Heading into his 10th full NRL season, Brooks has played 190 first-grade games with zero finals appearances, and a win rate below 39%.
Sure he's had bad forward packs in the past or seasons where his halves partner is chopped and changed, but playing behind a world-class pack, featuring a three-time premiership-winning hooker in his prime, excuses are running low in Concord.
They'll get better as time goes on this season, but it doesn't feel like they've addressed the big dramas that ground this team more often than not.
The Wests Tigers had the worst attack in the competition in 2022. They scored a grand total of 352 points, an average of 14.7 per game and 20 points lower than the second-worst attack in Newcastle.
To make matters worse for the Tigers, they face Jackson Hastings at Leichhardt Oval on Sunday, who'll be desperate to prove that he is a halfback, and not a lock as Tim Sheens pushed for.
The club's average of 14.7 points scored per game lifted to 17.5 in the games that Hastings featured in, meaning they scored just nine points per game when he didn't play.
Have the club let the wrong halfback walk?
It's only early testaments and metaphors due to where we are in the season, but whether they occur in Round 1 or Round 27, they need to be addressed and addressed quickly.
It's far too easy to sit back and say 'they'll work it out', and then panic six weeks later when they haven't worked it out, haven't had their issues addressed and are sliding down the ladder.
It shouldn't be panic stations and alarm bells quite yet, but this Wests Tigers' outfit has a snowball of problems that will only grow and grow as they pick up the pace, and risk repeating the failures of the last 11 seasons.
Their backline will chop and change through the season, they haven't really thrown all their eggs into any fullback's basket, and lack creativity in their forwards, although Bateman will help with that.
It's tough times being a Wests Tigers fan, and while it won't get easier immediately, the tools and talent are there.
It's simply time to use them.
The problem as always at the Tigers is their outside backs…..dropped balls & missed tackles. Until they get rid of 4-5 of them , they will continue to struggle.
Jake Simpkin looked so much sharper than Api Koroisau, who also missed 6 tackles. Simpkin also made 2 line breaks, but had no support.
So much for Api being the saviour.
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