After the worst season in the joint venture’s history, the Wests Tigers used their final round home game at Leichhardt Oval to announce the departure of five players heading in to 2023.
The club confirmed via a halftime video that James Roberts, James Tamou, Jock Madden, Kelma Tuilagi and Luke Garner would all be departing at season’s end, ending speculation about their outstanding contract issues.
After fighting at the judiciary to secure a final round farewell, Tamou is expected to call time on his 300-game career after not being offered a new contract by the club. The premiership winner played 37 games for the Concord club after stints in North Queensland and Penrith.
Dubbo-born Garner, meanwhile, will join the 2021 premiers as a replacement for Viliame Kikau. He broke onto the NRL scene at the Tigers, playing 74 games for the club between 2018-2022 and scoring 23 tries.
Roberts has announced his retirement after 12 seasons in the NRL, although his final campaign was marred by form and injury issues.
The former NRL Dally M Centre of the Year made his debut for South Sydney as a teenager before shuffling between a number of clubs including Penrith, the Gold Coast Titans, Brisbane Broncos and a return to the Rabbitohs before eventually landing at the Tigers.
He played 166 NRL games, scoring 77 tries, and also represented NSW at State of Origin level.
Tuilagi will depart for the Northern Beaches, having secured a three-year deal with the Manly Sea Eagles. He was arguably one of Tigers’ most consistent young talents in 2022, playing all but two games. He leaves after just 26 games for the Tigers since making his debut in Round 20, 2021.
22-year-old Madden is off-contract at season’s end and is believed to have secured a deal to join the Panthers, though the details are yet unconfirmed. The 22-year-old played 13 games this year, impressing in his opportunities.
Meanwhile the club has only brought in three players for 2023 – though they’re all highly rated talents in Isaiah Papali’i, two-time premiership winner Apisai Koroisau and 21-year-old prop Sione Fainu from Manly.