The Wests Tigers seemed to go from one disaster to the next in 2021, and unfortunately for their players, coaching staff, administrators and fans, it doesn’t look like that is about to change anytime soon.
Michael Maguire’s side won just a handful of games throughout the season, and their defence was at times downright terrible.
That included letting in 66 points on one horrendous Saturday evening against the Melbourne Storm, and losing in a beatdown on the final day of the season to the wooden spooners, the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Coach Maguire seemed all but destined to lose his job, but somehow, he survived an internal review, although some other members of his coaching, and the club’s football staff, did not.
That said, there is little doubt that Maguire is under more pressure than just about any coach in the competition heading into 2022 under the watchful eye of new Director of Football Tim Sheens, who returns to the club he once led to a premiership.
Regardless of that, the Tigers have now missed the finals for ten years in a row, and while there was plenty of talk Luke Brooks would exit, that hasn’t come to fruition.
With their current squad however, and a fairly average looking recruitment run for 2022, there is little doubt this club could do with some more talent.
If the Tigers could steal anyone in the competition, who would it be?
Who would your club steal?
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Current squad for 2022
Shawn Blore, Luke Brooks, Adam Doueihi, Luke Garner, Oliver Gildart, Jackson Hastings, Reece Hoffman, William Kei, Asu Kepaoa, Apisai Koroisau, Daine Laurie, Luciano Leilua, Jacob Liddle, Jock Madden, Ken Maumalo, Thomas Mikaele, Zane Musgrove, David Nofoaluma, Joe Ofahengaue, Isaiah Papali’i, Tyrone Peachey, Alex Seyfarth, Jake Simpkin, Tukimihia Simpkins, Tommy Talau, James Tamou, Kelma Tuilagi, Junior Tupou, Alex Twal, Stefano Utoikamanu
Gaps in the Tigers’ best 17 for 2022
The Tigers will be boosted by the arrival of Tyrone Peachey, Jackson Hastings and Oliver Gildart for the 2022 season, but there is still a feeling that they are still well and truly short in key areas of the side.
This is quite a difficult side to pick given the wealth of utilities they will have available to them. Even taking into account the loss of Moses Mbye (and the much-needed loss for both club and player it must be said), they still have Adam Doueihi, Jackson Hastings and Tyrone Peachey who can all fill multiple positions.
It could be suggested Doueihi will play in the halves - and given his form in 2021 there - he has to. That said, it would mean Peachey is likely to play lock, while Hastings runs the bench utility role, although he could be putting pressure on Brooks in a matter of weeks to play in the halves unless the Tigers get off to a fast start.
That said, you’d have to give the spine a chance to work, and stealing a player there at any rate may not fix the other problems the club faces. There is enough talent among the spine - with Brooks and Douieihi to be joined by Daine Laurie at fullback and either Jacob Liddle or Jake Simpkin at hooker.
Peachey’s arrival playing at lock means Alex Twal and Thomas Mikaele can stop rotating through the position, but the Tigers are still desperately short a prop. James Tamou hasn’t lived up to expectations since his arrival, which has lumped pressure on Twal and Stefano Utoikamanu, both of whom have been solid.
A replacement there seems to be the top candidate for the Tigers if they had the power to steal anyone, with that player needing to be a game-changer, rather than a big minutes producer, given Utoikamanu is developing nicely into that style of player, with Twal already well and truly there.
Ken Maumalo has also been underwhelming since his arrival, so a winger wouldn’t be off the table in this discussion, while their second-row is also an intriguing prospect.
Luciano Leilua certainly has one spot locked up and wouldn’t be replaced by anyone, but with Luke Garner not impressing and Shawn Blore still relatively young and likely to fill a bench role in 2022, a gun second-rower could yet improve the Tigers out of site in this conversation. You could argue Garner should be nothing more than a depth player, or someone to come off the bench, although Maguire could yet pull a surprise and have Blore start on a consistent basis in the new season.
And yes, Isaiah Papali’i is arriving in 2023 - but that is 2023. In 2022, they are short.
The rest of the side actually looks balanced enough, and without a string of results early in the season, the pressure is going to grow on Maguire ten-fold, with his job back in the same spotlight it spent most of 2021 in the middle of.
The candidates to steal
The ex-Manly Sea Eagle now plies his trade for the New Zealand Warriors, and is among the best props in the game.
When it comes to ball-running, there is no one stronger, and while his defence isn't what he is known for, he tackles with remarkable efficiency.
In fact, when it comes to picking the best all round props in the game, it's quite a surprise Fonua-Blake's name doesn't get thrown around in the same sentences as James Fisher-Harris, Payne Haas and others.
All Run Metres
While Fonua-Blake is arguably the better all round prop, there is hardly an argument to be made against Taupau being the strongest ball runner in the competition.
The man who famously is on a virtually meat only diet has plenty of results to show for it on the park.
He flattens opposition with regularity, and while he may not play the big minutes some other forwards can, he is exactly what the Tigers need - down to a tee.
All Run Metres
On one foot, he will want to play that position, but on the other, he has already turned himself into one of the game's best options on the wing.
While the Tigers wouldn't sign a fullback because Daine Laurie is improving with every game he plays seemingly, they would sign a winger, and the speed Tabuai-Fidow brings is something the club severely lack.
His ability to play fullback wouldn't be terrible either given Laurie is susceptible to injury.
All Run Metres
How could you?
Fifita is a barnstorming brute force for the Titans, and at the back-end of 2021, developed the ability to play on either the left or right-hand side.
It didn't matter whether he started or came off the bench, he was an impossibility to stop more often than he wasn't, and he is the sort of player who the Tigers desperately need.
This is a forward - it has to be.
The Tigers need that X-Factor up front which will help create time and space for the likes of Brooks and Doueihi, and that player to complement the bigger engines they currently have.
This is all down to Taupau and Fonua-Blake, who would both improve the Tigers out of sight.
Taupau is a man-mountain with the football, and that has to be the reasoning. It's what the Tigers need more than anything else.