2010 Position: 3rd (15 Wins, 9 Losses)
Gains: Evander Waitoa (Wellington), Jacob Miller (Sydney Roosters), Marika Koroibete (Fiji), Ratu Tagive (Canterbury Bulldogs), Teqele Nayarvovo (Otahuhu Leopards)
Losses: David Gower (St George Illawarra Dragons).
The Western Suburbs Balmain Ryde Tigers. I must admit, I’ve been looking forward to this preview. The West Tigers came within a field goal of the eventual premiers in the preliminary final, the same margin they would have beaten the runners up a few weeks earlier had it not been for one of the best field goals you’ll ever see under pressure (they eventually lost that game in extra time). After languishing in their usual 9th-12th spot after winning the 2005 grand final, it’s fair to say the Tigers have arrived after an impressive 2010. Benji Marshall finally delivered on his great potential by winning the golden boot award for the best player in the world, and it’s hard not to get excited when we look ahead for this great merged outfit.
The Tigers laid low in the recruitment front (you’d be hard pressed to know any of their gains), but as Robbie Farah eloquently put it – they don’t need anyone else to win the comp, which the bookies agree with placing the Tigers at equal second favourites (with South Sydney). The class of 2010 Tigers showed something previous years didn’t – ticker. They won games on the back of some rugged defence and played some smart football which is ironic considering the intelligence of their forwards. Their backline is one of the best in the business, and the Sheens style of play suits this team to a T. There’s nothing more natural than a West Tigers sweeping backline movement from one side of the field to the other. This team does it better than any. Same could be said about their scrum plays. What new plays will that foxy protected species Tim Sheens have up his sleeve for this year? Not sure but I can tell you I’m looking forward to it!
The offseason has been kind to the Tigers too, with the announcement of Meriton Apartments becoming their biggest major sponsorship to date thanks largely to billionaire Property developer Harry Triguboff – not a bad person to have in your corner. Long gone are the “fibro” days from the Western Suburbs part of this merger, the Wests Tigers are glamour.
2011 will be a big year for this club. Their defence will be tested again, but this time they don’t have Royce Simmons as part of their defence coach, he’s now coaching in the Super League (If you have Twitter I suggest you follow him for good laughs). Big questions marks remain if the Tigers can back up the good work from last season into 2011. It’s something they haven’t been able to do whenever they’ve had a good year (see 2006 – 2009). If Benji Marshall can have another stellar, injury free year (he didn’t miss a game in 2010), then that’ll go a long way to help them challenge for the title.
What went right in 2010: Two key ingredients why the Tigers went well – Benji Marshall and their defence. The Tigers of old have always been able to score points, but last year they were able to stop them through better line speed and being more effective in their first contact with the ball runner (the Dwyer bell-ringer on Waerea Hargreaves springs to mind), and Bryce Gibbs turned into quite the tackling machine. That other pommy bloke, Gareth Ellis (yeh there’s another pom other than Sam Burgess playing in the NRL), backed up an impressive 2009 with a stellar 2010.
What went wrong in 2010: It’s hard to fault the 2010 Tigers after losing by 1 point to the eventual premiers in the preliminary final. They could have possibly finished higher on the ladder had they won games they probably should have (the round 22 game against a depleted Souths team comes to mind). Having no players taking part in the 2010 State Of Origin series was a bitter pill to swallow, but you’d think that will be rectified in 2011.
Final Say For 2011: Bring it on. That simple. The Tigers have the skill, they have a new found resolve from 2010 and how they go in 2011 will largely depend on their own abilities, mentally as much as physically. It’s a scary thought that the Tigers did so well last year with boom youngster Tim Moltzen out injured for the majority of the year. He should be fit and firing to go this year, and reports are that Taniela Tuiaki is on the mend after a horror injury and should take his place on the wing, ousting Beau Ryan from the team (Insert Beau knows joke here). Tigers are one of the premiership favourites this year, for good reason I say. All you Tigers fans might want to leave the 2nd of October free, something tells me you might want to head to ANZ stadium.