The Wests Tigers are having a super off-season.
Never thought I would type those words, yet here we are … and I’m enjoying it.
Every step they have taken thus far has been in the right direction.
The signing of Michael McGuire was a brilliant move. Pay no attention to the one bad season the Bunnies had under his leadership and focus more on the fact he broke a long Premiership drought.
Full disclosure I found the will he/won’t he saga with Ivan Cleary absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t believe the Tigers were allowed to be bent over for so long before making the obvious and really the ONLY decision they could.
Cleary made some good moves and in my view is a wonderful coach but he was never going to turn down the opportunity to return to the foot of the mountains with Penrith.
The Tigers reportedly interviewed the who’s who of off-contract coaches and made the best decision they could in going with the experienced, title-winning McGuire.
They signed Ryan Matterson and strengthened a position of weakness from their 2018 season.
The Tigers pack was solid yet often beaten in 2018. Matterson had a brilliant 2018. It’s a brilliant move for both player and club.
Last week they announced Moses Mbye as captain of the side.
Last season the Tigers took the laughable decision to appoint co-captains. On the surface that isn’t that strange being that many other clubs do the same.
The Sharks have two captains in Gallen and Graham. I shouldn’t throw stones.
Except the Tigers named five. FIVE co-captains.
Those five included three players who weren’t with the Tigers in 2017.
Benji Marshall was expected to play from the bench at best. Josh Reynolds was picked despite never playing for the club. Russell Packer’s appointment was a strange one.
Chris Lawrence and Elijah Taylor were the only two co-captains I’d have even considered.
Following the exit of the club of Aaron Woods and James Tedesco, the Tigers needed new leadership. Five players took up that role.
With all due respect, I can’t see how that sort of arrangement works.
Clubs need one captain. Two tops.
McGuire has made the decision to appoint a sole captain and has chosen Moses Mbye.
I was expecting Lawrence to be named the sole captain this season. Possibly even Luke Brooks.
I cannot tell you how happy I was to hear, for my Tiger supporting mates, that Brooks was not saddled with extra responsibility after a break out season.
Mbye looks to be a perfect choice.
Brooks didn’t need the extra pressure. He’s still young and developing his game. He had a brilliant 2018 season and shouldn’t be saddled with the extra responsibility.
Mbye, at 25, is in the perfect position to take over as the club’s leader.
With 100 games of NRL experience under his belt across two clubs and multiple positions, Mbye has seen a lot in his relatively short career.
Playing fullback will allow Mbye to see what is in front of him, which is everything.
He has a calm demeanour yet seems like a fiercely competitive player.
He has three years, at least, with the club and his being awarded the captaincy really shapes as a long-term investment for the club.
The appointment also looks as though it will lead to Mbye playing out the rest of his career in the black an orange. At 25 he’s already a leader, that means a lot to players.
Look for Mbye to have a monster season on the back of the huge show of confidence by his new coach.
To be chosen over the likes of Brooks, Lawrence and Farah must be a huge feather in his cap and I can only see him rewarding McGuire with his best season.
The Tigers are really one of the competition’s unknowns in 2019.
Their side, on paper, is middle of the range. They have some weapons in their back line, a strengthened forward pack and one of the game’s form halves.
Their depth worries me and honestly, I don’t know who partners Brooks in the halves.
Mbye shapes as their key player outside of their halfback.
Fullback is arguably the games most important position now. Slater changed the game during his career. Barba won the title for the Sharks in 2016. Tedesco is arguably the game’s most important player.
Mbye has all the talent to become a huge star and with the added confidence of the (c) next to his name, I’d be very excited if I had “Mbye” across the back of my Tigers jersey.
With the club likely to announce the signing of Robert Jennings in the upcoming weeks, the Tigers look set to enter 2019 on the back of a super off-season.
The club needed to make all the right decisions to enter the new season with momentum and with their naming of Moses Mbye as captain I think they’ve done just that.