To say the past two seasons have brought about change for the Wests Tigers would be a drastic understatement.
Fans won’t need reminding but during the 2016 season the club lost three of the players it had planned to build the club around for the next decade when Mitch Moses left to the Eels, James Tedesco to the Roosters and Aaron Woods to the Dogs.
Again, fans of the club wont want to go down memory lane but few will forget the Melrose Place-like drama that surrounded the club during the Jason Taylor and Mick Potter days.
Robbie Farah went from arguably the club’s best every player to an outsider, to a reserve grader, to a member of the Bunnies in record time.
It looked as though the running gag of drama would end when the club brought in Ivan Cleary and handed him the reigns with a long-term contract and almost complete control.
The player turnover was massive but the fans came back to the club on the back of clever recruitment and marketing slogans. The Tigers brass laid on the fact that the drama was behind the club and that Cleary would be the man to lead the side back to the finals.
All looked good but it was a false dawn, with the mother of all “will he-won’t he” situations emerging.
I won’t go through it as my hair has only recently returned to colour after going grey explaining the coaching situation at the Panthers, but Cleary ultimately left the club is farcical circumstances.
What, at first, looked like yet another in a long line of negatives, looks to have given the club something that it has not had in many years; consistency!!!
Michael McGuire, a premiership winning coach with the Bunnies, has been appointed coach, while the club’s biggest name has re-signed a massive, long-term contract.
The re-signing of current Dally M halfback of the year Luke Brooks before Christmas will allow the club to focus and plan moving forward.
Brooks had a career best season in 2018 and was set to become a huge player on the open market with plenty of sides after class halfbacks.
The saga could have dragged into the new year and had the ability to really upset the club’s long-term planning.
Instead, now the recruitment team can put their feet up over Christmas and relax knowing their halfback is locked in for the next five-years.
Reports linked Brooks with multiple clubs, with the Warriors, Roosters and Eels all supposedly players for his services. Coming off contract on November 1st, Brooks was re-signed to his junior club within the first week of December.
For all the jokes made across social media about Brooks, he is a player who continues to improve and now looks set to realise his potential. His name is already being mentioned in the talk for an Origin spot should Nathan Cleary fail to re-find his 2018 form.
The other big move was to appoint a man who knows how to win under scrutiny and pressure in McGuire.
The club was linked to Wayne Bennett, but with all due respect to the master coach, Bennett brings with him a side show that the Tigers do not need.
For all his talents and success, the last thing the Tigers need is a man who seems more worried about dodging media cameras than working on his roster.
McGuire, despite a horror 2017 season, brings with him proven success and the calm head needed to bring finals footy back to the club.
There were reports just a few days ago that suggested McGuire was the man who convinced Brooks to avoid the media circus of extended contract negotiations by quickly re-signing with the club.
McGuire delivered a premiership to another Sydney club who were desperate for success.
With all due respect to the Tigers, and other Sydney-based clubs, no team in the premier state attracts the kind of attention of the red and greens.
Their owner is a Hollywood heavyweight, their history of title wins is long, their supporter base is rabid. There isn’t a whole lot of room for failure there.
McGuire delivered. Few will forget Sam Burgess crying with joy after the final whistle, or Greg Inglis crawling through the in-goal after scoring yet another try.
The past few years at the joint-venture club will be remembered for ridiculous contract negotiations, a huge turn over in players, and most importantly of all, lack of finals footy.
The first step to building a successful club is putting the right people in place.
In McGuire and Brooks, the Tigers have done just that.
In appointing McGuire and re-signing Brooks the Tigers have ensured stability and consistency for the first time in a long time.
Hopefully the football can follow.