Although the Wests Tigers have experienced somewhat of a resurgence in the past few seasons characterised by cut-price players punching well above their weight, this only came about as a result of a massive roster overhaul that resulted in more than a few potential superstars walking out the door.
Here are the top 10 players the Tigers have let go, not re-signed or released since 2010. The players have been listed in accordance with the contribution they made whilst at the Tigers, as well as considering the influence they have had at the clubs they left for.
After debuting as a fresh-faced 18-year old in 2012 and impressing legendary Tigers coach Tim Sheens in his early appearances, Sironen looked set for a long career at the joint venture.
However, after consistent injury problems and saying that he was “resting on his laurels” at his junior club, the Tigers thought it best to release Sironen from the remaining two years of his contract when the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles expressed interest in their player.
Sironen enjoyed his finest NRL season to date in his first year on the Peninsula. Helping the Sea Eagles to an unlikely sixth-place finish, having recruited numerous un-wanted stars such as Sironen and Akuila Uate, no one expected the silvertails to be troubling the top dogs of the NRL.
Starting regularly in the second-row, the former Balmain junior forged a lethal combination with Maroons captain Daly Cherry-Evans, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and utilising his aggression and subtle ball-playing skills to great effect.
Although he missed out on the majority of 2018 due to an ACL injury, Sironen has been back to his best in 2019, playing all of Manly’s games and only once not playing the full eighty minutes.
The four-time City Origin representative has moulded himself into the prototype modern back-rower in the first half of 2019, being able to do all the grunt work of any good middle forward, while possessing a great short passing and kicking game thanks to his formative years in the halves.
After reportedly dominating in the NSW Cup in the early rounds, Austin made his debut for the Tigers in round 6 following a suspension to Braith Anasta. He would go onto play every remaining game for the Tigers in 2014, featuring predominantly at five-eighth but also in the centres, hooker, and at fullback. His notable season for the Tigers led to Peter Sterling anointing him as one of his bargain buys of the season, saying “wherever he has played it has been obvious he’s a natural footballer with good skills and an ability to play what’s in front of him.”
With only a year remaining on his contract at the Tigers, and with established stars James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses, and Luke Brooks all being seen as long term occupants of the only positions Austin could fill, the Tigers decided to release Austin who was promptly signed to a three-year deal by the Canberra Raiders.
On his arrival in the nation’s capital, Austin would be handed the number six jersey and the keys to the team, which paid immediate dividends. While the Raiders only finished 10th Austin personally had a bumper season, registering 14 tries and 7 try assists, going onto be named Dally M Five-Eighth of the Year, less than 12 months after being released by the Tigers.
The following year Austin would spearhead the Raiders to the 2nd position at the end of the regular season and their first finals appearance in years thanks to a juggernaut attack that scored a scarcely believable 125 tries over the season, 17 tries clear of their next closest competitor.
While Austin was playing the best football of his career in the nation’s capital, two men that had been earmarked as long-term Tigers that were occupying Austin’s preferred positions, James Tedesco and Mitchell Moses, went onto sign long-term deals with rival clubs. What a cruel mistress hindsight can be.
The nephew of Balmain Tigers legend Benny Elias, much like some of the other players to feature on this list Moses seemed destined to see out his career in Tigers colours.
Having played his junior football with Parramatta before being inexplicably punted by the Eels, Moses joined the Tigers to play for their S.G Ball Cup side, going onto be named S.G Ball Player of the Year in 2012, partnering current Tigers no. 7 Luke Brooks in the halves and steering them to a Grand Final victory over the Raiders.
Following this outstanding season in which he would also make the Australian Schoolboys side before being selected in the 2013 NSW Blues Origin Pathways Camp, Moses would re-sign with the Tigers on a four-year deal in August 2013.
After debuting in 2014, Moses would go onto cement himself in the halves alongside great friend Luke Brooks, appearing 67 times for his junior club with the two looking set to lead the Tigers through the next decade.
Sadly, for Tigers fans, this would not happen. With Moses, Aaron Woods, James Tedesco, and Luke Brooks all inexplicably allowed to come off contract in the same season and with the Tigers struggling under Jason Taylor, Moses had all the bargaining power and leveraged it to his advantage.
Having had a deadline placed on him to re-sign, this period passed, and Moses would go onto to be released mid-season and sign an immediate three-year deal with his junior club the Parramatta Eels.
Having joined the Eels in mid-2017, Moses would enjoy a stellar back half of the season. Leading the Eels to an impressive fourth-place before being knocked out in the second round of the finals, their first feature since 2009. Moses would later go onto play for Lebanon in the 2017 Rugby League World Cup, with his impressive displays resulting In being selected at five-eighth in the Team of the Tournament.
Since then Moses’ form, much like those of his team, has been inconsistent. After a successful 2017, the Eels rocketed back down to the familiar position of last on the ladder, finishing the 2019 season with another wooden spoon after a pre-season that held so much promise.
However, the start to 2019 has been much brighter, with the Eels sitting in the top eight after 13 rounds, and Moses returning to his attacking best. Alongside club captain and fullback Clint Gutherson, the Lebanese international has led the Eels admirably over the first half of the season, with Moses’ impressive performances earning him a new three ear $2.5 million deal to stay in the blue and yellow.
Having grown up in Leichhardt, before going onto being educated at famed rugby league nursery Holy Cross Ryde and playing all his junior footy for Balmain prior to graduating to the Wests Tigers senior squad, Aaron Woods was Tigers through and through.
In his seven-year 146 game stint at Wests, Woods cemented himself as a starting Test and Origin prop, as well as club captain. Having forged a reputation as a player of promise after two prolific seasons in the Tigers NYC team from 2009-2010, within two-years Woods would cement himself as the Tigers premier front-rower and eventually go onto be named player of the year in 2012. With club legend Steve ‘Blocker’ Roach saying at the end of the 2012 season that Woods “virtually carried them [the Tigers] last year, when Galloway was injured. I reckon, along with James Tamou, he’s the best ball-running front-rower in the comp.”
Over the next five years Woods would consistently put up superior numbers compared to his front-rower piers, only once (in 2014) averaging under 155 running metres per game, as well as establishing himself as one of the NRL’s premier exponents of the offload, often being the catalyst for attacking moves thanks to his freakish ability to offload a ball from a seemingly impossible position.
Coming off contract at the end of 2017 and with the Tigers having placed an April 21st deadline to re-sign on their spiritual leader, this period lapsed, and Woods did not sign on the dotted line. This led to him signing a mammoth 4-year $3.2 million deal with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs.
As we now know Woods would not see out the duration of this deal with Canterbury due to their substantial salary cap problems, leading to a mid-season deal with the Sharks, signing for three-and-a-half-years on reduced financial terms.
Since joining the Sharks Woods has been employed as a more explosive bench prop to great effect, with Andrew Fifita and Matt Prior having mortgages on the Sharks 8 and 10 jerseys. In those limited minutes, Woods still averaged an extremely impressive 140 running metres per game, as well as substantially increasing his tackles to 28 per game, the most since his second season of NRL in 2012.
While Woods has had a slow start to 2019 due to a fractured foot, he had an extremely productive beginning to the season, once again bumping up his tackle output to register an efficiency of 96.6% over the opening five rounds. For context, in 2018 Alex Twal registered the highest tackle efficiency in the competition with 95.2%.
With Michael Maguire conducting a large scale rebuild and roster overhaul at the Tigers thanks to the lack of go-forward provided by underperforming stars such as Russel Packer and Ben Matulino, Woods is only just entering his prime as a front-rower having turned 28 in March and there is no doubt that Maguire wishes he could call upon the services of the local lad Woods right about now.
Over the 2012 and 2013 seasons, Brown would feature in the Tigers NYC team alongside fellow future stars Marika Koroibete, Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses, going onto win the 2012 Grand Final and being dually rewarded with a new three-year contract at Concord.
Brown would go onto make his debut for the Tigers in 2013, however, he was limited to only one appearance for the club due to second-tier salary cap constraints.
With Brown languishing in reserve grade for the 2014 season and not being viewed as a player of promise by the higher-ups at the Tigers, he was released from the remainder of his contract to sign a 2-year contract with the Rabbitohs. He would debut for the red and green in round six of 2015 and finished the year with seven appearances in the NRL.
2016 would prove to be Brown’s coming of age, playing 21 matches for Souths featuring primarily off the bench as a prop or lock and averaging 95 running metres per game. Over the season Brown would forge a reputation as a hard man and be described as a “throwback to the old days,” these performances would catch the attention of the Parramatta Eels who promptly snapped the Cabramatta junior up to a two-year deal.
His first year at the Eels in 2017 would prove to be his finest season to date, with Brown claiming the Eels starting lock jersey to be his own and becoming well known throughout the competition for his work-rate, big collisions and lead by example style of play. His stellar first season in the blue and gold would result in him claiming the Ken Thornett Medal as Player of the Year and the Blue and Gold Army award for member’s player of the year.
Brown has since re-signed with the Eels until the end of 2021 with Eels head coach Brad Arthur saying that “Nathan has developed into one of our most consistent performers. He brings a great deal of power and aggression to the team and I’m looking forward to seeing him continue his great form.”
With the Tigers struggling substantially for any leadership and go-forward in the middle currently, there is no doubt they will rue the day they let Nathan Brown walk out the door.
Born and raised in Naraiyawa, Fiji on his family farm, Marika Koroibete joined the Tigers in order to play for their NYC team ahead of the 2011 season after impressing for the Bati and Nasinu Secondary School as an 18-year-old.
Renowned for his frightening pace and crunching tackles, Koroibete had a stellar time in the Tigers NYC side, scoring 22 tries in 26 games as well as winning the 2012 NYC Grand Final, scoring a double on the day.
Described by then-coach Tim Sheens as having “lots of issues still but he’s got raw pace and ability”, Koroibete impressed in his opening season of NRL in 2012, netting seven tries in six matches, being named joint Rookie of the Year at the Tigers as well as one of the top ten upcoming young NRL stars in Lifestyle Uncut Magazine.
The Fijian international would endure a slow 2013 season, suffering a number of injuries but still netting a respectable 5 tries from his 9 games, as well as averaging over three tackle busts and 100 running metres per game for the year.
With Tim Sheens still viewing the promising Koroibete as just that, promising, he was released from the remainder of his contract to join the Melbourne Storm on a two and a half-year deal midway through 2014. This would prove to be an extremely astute piece of business by the Storm, with Koroibete going onto score 34 tries from 48 games across his two-and-a-half-year stint at AAMI Park, featuring in a Grand Final as well as finishing as the club’s top try scorer in 2015.
In May 2016 it was confirmed that Koroibete would be joining the Storm’s cross-code rivals the Melbourne Rebels, which has been similarly fruitful. Since joining the Rebels in 2017, he has cemented himself as Melbourne and Australia’s go to winger, with his un-matched pace and defensive abilities allowing him to adjust well to the 15-man game.
While Koroibete was extremely raw while at the Tigers, with his game-reading and understanding not being what Tim Sheens would have liked, had the Tigers stuck by their man they could have had the most damaging winger in the NRL on their books.
While he began his NRL career at his junior club the Bulldogs after playing his junior football in Greenacre, Taupau actually forged a name for himself as a one-man wrecking ball during his two-year stint at the Tigers.
Having joined the Tigers ahead of the 2014 season, the following year would prove to be a smooth introduction into regular first grade for the explosive front-rower. Tapuau would make his debut for the Tigers in their round 1 loss to St George Illawarra and would be one of just two players in the Tigers squad to play every game of the 2014 season.
This impressive form would see him earn his Test debut for the Kiwis in the Anzac test, coming off the bench in their loss to the Kangaroos. Consistent form over the remainder of the year would see Taupau selected in the 2014 Kiwis Four Nations Squad, spearheading the New Zealanders to a 22-18 win over the Kangaroos in the final, with Taupau being described “the toast of the team”.
The following year Taupau would continue his good form under Jason Taylor, beginning the year as the starting lock. Putting to good use the substantial muscle mass he gained over the offseason, Taupau would score a number of memorable tries for the Tigers, utilising his un-rivalled power and surprising pace and agility to great effect close to the line.
Still with a year to remain on his contract and being offered serious money elsewhere, Taupau’s future would be subject to one of the strangest sagas in NRL history. Having decided to join the Manly Warringah Sea Eagles on a four-year deal beginning in 2016, the news was leaked on Twitter by Canadian film critic James Kelly, who received Taupau’s contract via email rather than Manly’s CEO Joe Kelly. Only in rugby league.
Since joining the Sea Eagles Taupau has built on the promise he showed at the Tigers, a powerful runner who also possesses a subtle offload, the man aptly nicknamed ‘Kapow’ is the leader of the Kiwis and Sea Eagles packs and has gone onto forge one of the most damaging front-row combinations in the competition alongside Addin Fonua-Blake.
After playing his junior football with the La Perouse Panthers before joining the South Sydney SG Ball team, Josh Addo-Carr was later released by the Rabbitohs and was signed to the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks NYC team.
Over 2014 and 2015 in the NYC, Addo-Carr forged a reputation as possessing outstanding natural abilities and pace with a slighter frame than what we are now accustomed to, scoring numerous eye-catching tries during his time at Shark Park.
These performances would catch the eye of the Tigers, who would sign the man known as ‘The Foxx’ to a one-year deal. Addo-Carr would go onto make his NRL debut in round 7 of the 2016 season, against the Melbourne Storm scoring a try on debut.
The Foxx would go onto make a further eight appearances in 2016, scoring six tries and being named on the wing in the Intrust Super Premiership Team of the Year. While his opportunities were limited, Addo-Carr displayed his undeniable abilities in his brief stints in first-grade, utilising his frightening pace as well as incredible ability to contort and keep his body in the field of play to score some memorable tries on the Tigers flank.
Since joining the Storm, Addo-Carr has gone onto becoming arguably the NRL’s finest winger. Netting an incredible 50 tries from 64 games, as well as winning the 2017 NRL premiership in his first year, scoring a double in the Grand Final.
These impressive performances earnt him a contract extension until the end of 2021, as well as making his State of Origin debut for the Blues in 2018, helping NSW to an unlikely series victory under rookie coach Brad Fittler.
It is hard to believe that in the space of five years, the Tigers have released Marika Koroibete to the Storm, and then later allowed Josh Addo-Carr to leave them in order to join the Storm and replace the outgoing Koroibete. Two players not deemed good enough to usurp David Nofoaluma or whoever else happened to be occupying the Tigers other wings at the time, boy have they proved the Tigers hierarchy wrong.
Born and raised in Wests heartland having played his junior football for the Camden Rams, James Tedesco is another in a long line of Tigers juniors to walk out the door to greener pastures.
Having played for the Western Suburbs Magpies in the Harold Mathews Cup before joining the Tigers junior systems, Tedesco’s rise to the top would be swift. Beginning the 2011 season in the SG Ball Cup side, he would make his debut for the NYC side in round 13, going onto score four tries in just his third match and going onto be named NYC Player of the Year for the Tigers.
While Tedesco’s career was blighted by a number of injuries over his early years, he displayed enough promise in his limited outings to make the Tigers stick by him. After overcoming these persistent injury woes, he would establish himself as the Tigers primary attacking weapon, with his gangly running style and freakish ability with ball in hand laying on many tries for both he and his teammates.
The Italian representative would go onto make his State of Origin debut in game III of the 2016 series, only two-seasons after a horror knee-break, running for an incredible 258 metres. Tedesco was similarly rewarded for his consistent form with the Tigers after netting 14 tries in 17 games by being named at Fullback in the Dally M Team of the Year.
In 2017 Tedesco and the other members of the Tigers ‘big four’ would be subject to constant contract speculation thanks to them all being allowed to come off contract in the same year. Like Aaron Woods and Mitchell Moses, Tedesco was set a deadline to re-sign the contract tabled by the Tigers but that passed. Going onto sign a four-year-deal with the Sydney Roosters beginning in 2018.
While Tedesco had a slow start to life in Bondi, notably bombing a certain try on debut during the Roosters 10-8 loss to the Tigers in round 1, he has since returned to form and has become the player the Roosters thought they signed.
Still possessing the game-breaking speed and freakish natural abilities that he did at the Tigers, Tedesco has packed on substantial size and strength during his time in Sydney’s East, which has helped him cement himself as NSW and Australia’s no. 1 fullback.
Tedesco’s first year at the Roosters ended up being everything he could have wished for, winning his first NRL premiership, regaining the State of Origin shield under rookie coach Brad Fittler and going onto be awarded the Brad Fittler Medal for NSW’s best player during the 2018 series.
Although Tedesco is only a quarter of the way through his deal at the Roosters, his form and consistency since joining the NRL’s glamour club have indicated that letting him walk out the door could prove to be one of the worst pieces of business since the joint venture was formed.
After struggling to make an impact in rugby league in his early teens, trialling at the Sydney Roosters and North Sydney Bears as a winger or centre, Fifita battled due to his admittedly slight frame sitting at around “70 kg” at the time.
However, at age 18 Fifita put on substantial size, eventually signing for the Wests Tigers to play in their NYC team. He would feature primarily at prop, including during the 2009 NYC Grand Final loss to the Melbourne Storm.
The following year Fifita would make his first-grade debut in round 2 against the Rabbitohs, coming off the bench in a 44-32 loss. The dynamic forward would go onto play another 22 games that season scoring an impressive 5 tries, with his consistent form from the Tigers bench resulting in the younger Fifita brother making his Test debut for Tonga at the end of the season.
After an impressive debut season for the Tigers, Fifita dropped 10 kilos over the 2011 off-season to reach a playing weight of 109 kilograms, which resulted in him beginning the year as one of the Tigers starting props. Somewhat bewilderingly after round 19, Tim Sheens dropped Fifita from the Tigers matchday squad, with Fifita to play the remainder of the season in NSW Cup.
Seemingly unwanted at the club and with Tim Sheens needing to make space to accommodate new signing Adam Blair under the salary cap, the Tigers would release Fifita from the remainder of his contract and he would go onto sign a three-year deal with the Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks.
What a cruel mistress hindsight can be, while Blair’s career trajectory would take a substantial dive in Concord, Fifita’s would do the complete opposite in the Shire. Since joining Cronulla, he has become a cult hero at Shark Park, playing 164 games across an eight-year stint at the club.
In that time Fifita has become one of the most dynamic front-rowers in the game, with his marauding running style and offloading prowess proving to be the bane of many coach’s existences.
A 10-time NSW Origin representative and 7-time Australian Kangaroo, Fifita has also become a notable voice in regard to equalising the economic playing field between the tier 1 and tier 2 rugby league nations. Incredibly opting to play for Tonga over Australia and NSW, choosing pride in one’s country over financial gain.
While Fifita may have his critics for his off-field antics, on the field he is one of the defining forwards of the 21st century, proving that you can have all the skill, coordination, agility and speed in a much, much bigger man.