The recruitment of hard edged premiership winning coach Michael Maguire held such high hopes for final starved Tiger fans, who for years had put up with continued disappointment and mediocrity.
Disappointingly for Tigers fans, expectations and moments of glory over the past two seasons didn’t eventuate into success. Favourite sons Benji Marshall and Chris Lawrence have now retired or been moved on as with a dozen other players.
A clean out of the playing roster and a new era is at hand for Wests for 2021. Rumours of player unrest surfaced late in the season of players unhappy with Maguire and his tough love approach. Players not on board coach Maguire’s hard edge regime have been moved on and replaced by?
Well, Penrith Panthers 2020 Grand Final Captain James Tamou has signed on for 2021. The club made a strange announcement of the non-signing of Josh Addo Carr. Perhaps the development players handed contracts for 2021 are superstars in waiting.
So what now? Who steps up to replace the talent lost? The Tigers best in 2020 was Harry Grant on loan from 2020 Premiers the Melbourne Storm. Sadly for the Tigers, Grant has returned now the loan has expired.
Benji Marshall, although a defensive liability, at times was central to their offensive game producing the teams most try assist. The other major playmaker Luke Brooks had a very poor season. Maguire had dropped Brooks during the season relegating him to a bench player by seasons end.
Prior to both Robbie Farah & Benji Marshall’s return to the club Brooks played his best football being the dominant half. Perhaps with Marshall gone Brooks can return to his best. I find it hard to pick a successor for Marshall in their squad. Billy Walters looks capable but I think he makes a better 9 than 6. He also is returning from injury.
Josh Reynolds has been the odd man out during his time at the Tigers. At his best is an inspirational energetic half. Similarly to Marshall, his defence is a potential liability. Is Reynolds the man to step up and play to the potential he had with the Bulldogs or will he be let go before or during the season?
Talk of David Nofoaluma being the bait in a switch for Addo Carr happily didn’t occur. Nofoaluma was the most consistent player in 2020. Could Nofoaluma play an even bigger part by switching to fullback? He is great under the high ball, great ball carrier returning the ball. This could free up Adam Doueihi to move to five eight.
Tigers forward pack seems to be settled with the addition of Tamou. If Jacob Liddle can stay fit he should have first crack at the 9 jersey. However, the squad looks like it lacks depth. A few injuries and they might be somewhat fragile.
The lack of recruitment and the willingness to part with many players during the off-season is a little confusing. Although in saying that there may be a grand plan by Maguire and Tigers fans will need to trust in his vision.
Other clubs who landed outside of the top eight have recruited well. The Titans being an example. A club who have struggled for credibility over the years have been able to attract real talent like David Fifita from the Broncos.
The Bulldogs have added good solid first grade talent including Kyle Flanagan the young half with great expectations cruelly offloaded by the Roosters.
The future of some players like Matt Moylan and others are being speculated of potential moves before the 2021 season. Perhaps the Tigers are yet to show their hand in the recruitment department.
Otherwise I am confused. Generally, when a club continues to fail the idea is to strengthen by recruitment. Wests have had in the past recruited poorly. Paid overs to secure players which has contributed to salary cap pressure for not much return for investment such as Reynolds, Packer and Matulino.
Without new signings, based on the current squad and the recruitment by all other teams, I don’t see too much success coming the way of the Tigers in 2021. The long wait for finals football looks like it will continue.
Although in 2005 a squad without superstars, good clubman and a few good youngsters made the impossible happen. Driven by a former premiership coach convinced in his ways stubborn in his conviction.
Let me know what you think. Can the Tigers perform above expectations and make the eight in 2021?