With under a week to go until the NRL kicks off, we lay down an extended preview for each club. Below is a look at the Wests Tigers.
Ins: Billy Walters (Storm), Luciano Leilua (Dragons), Joey Leilua (Raiders), Adam Doueihi (Rabbitohs), Zane Musgrove
Outs: Robbie Farah, Robbie Rochow, Ben Matulino (all retired), Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Esan Marsters (Cowboys), Ryan Matterson (Eels)
The Tigers probably overachieved slightly in finishing one win shy of a rare finals footy appearance, although the way the season ended will not be fondly remembered.
With a full house and everything to play for the Tigers fell short against an out of sorts Cronulla side resigning them to yet another early Mad Monday celebration.
Ryan Matterson proved to be an incredible pickup. He lead an otherwise inconsistent Tigers forward pack in a big way. It’s very easy to see why the Tigers were so reluctant to let him go.
Outside of Matterson however the Tigers big names didn’t really live up to expectation.
Corey Thompson aside of course. He continues to be Mr consistent in whichever role he is required to play.
The Tigers had their moments in 2019 and looked finals bound, however fell short yet again.
Predicted Best Player: Adam Doueihi
I’m a huge fan of this late signing. The young international utility has a wonderful career ahead of him and will surely flourish with a full time spot in the number one.
Plenty of Souths fans are very unhappy with letting the youngster go despite a pretty handy replacement, and Tigers fans should be very excited.
He may not carry the name value of a Mitchell or a Moylan as the Tigers were linked to earlier, but this looks like just the signing the Tigers need to kick start their climb back to the finals.
Tigers fans will need to be patient as Doueihi settles into a new system at a new club, but this can only be positive for the club. I think he’ll very quickly become the Tigers most exciting player.
Obviously Luke Brooks is the most important player in the squad but I’m tipping a huge season for the new face.
Predicted Top Scorer: David Nofoaluma
Strangely the Tigers number one winger spent time in NSW Cup last year after failing to live up to his tremendous talents. It looks as though the demotion had the desired effect with his form improving upon his return.
Although the side has not been settled yet, Nofa should remain on the right wing with BJ Leilua playing one inside him. This should see an absolute gluttony of try scoring opportunities come his way.
The Tigers will play an expansive game in 2020 and Nofa should be one of the beneficiaries. The right side for the Tigers suddenly becomes far more lethal than in previous years.
Nofoaluma should regain his best form and should score in the range of 12-14 tries.
The Tigers recruited very heavily and late on after seemingly bombing out in the transfer market, signing two-time Dally M centre of the year Bj Leilua and young star in making Adam Doueihi.
They join Dragons livewire second rower Luciano Leilua, big man Zane Musgrove and their new starting number nine in the form of the talented Billy Walters.
They lost three first graders but they’ve added five, so I’d expect a stronger run on side than they boasted in 2019.
I’m really excited to see what the Leilua brothers can produce in new colours. They could realistically change the fortunes of the side very quickly.
2020 Final Position: 12th
The Tigers have a side capable of playing finals footy but I just can’t see it. I love their new additions and Billy Walters is the best option at nine, however there are just too many weaknesses to predict a finals finish.
Their forward pack doesn’t scream intimidation. There aren’t enough metres there for the halves to create enough opportunities to beat the better sides.
For all the magic he’s produced in his career, this is not prime Benji Marshall and with all due respect to Josh Reynolds, I don’t see him as the answer either.
Billy Walters looks a makeshift answer at nine but should be far better for the experience.
A lot will depend on how young Doueihi fits into his new full time role at fullback. As mentioned above he has all the skills and should have had enough time training at one to hit the ground running.
There should be enough there to stay well away from the wooden spoon battle, however sadly for Tigers fans I don’t see this as the year they return to the finals arena.