HAMILTON, NEW ZEALAND - MAY 19: Ben Matulino of the Warriors joins Russell Packer of the Dragons after the round 11 NRL match between the New Zealand Warriors and the St George Illawarra Dragons at Waikato Stadium on May 19, 2017 in Hamilton, New Zealand. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

The Wests Tigers have announced the signings of former NRL backs Corey Thompson and Mahe Fonua on two-year deals this week, begging the question, are they signing the right players?

Fonua and Thompson join Josh Reynolds, Ben Matulino, Russell Packer, Chris McQueen and Tuimoala Lolohea at Concord in 2018 but almost all of the recruits have a common theme – inconsistency.

Russell Packer has genuinely revamped his career in 2017 following two years of controversy, while Chris McQueen has been solid since joining the Gold Coast last season.

But for the rest of the bunch, each and every player has struggled with consistency over their first-grade career.

Lolohea has spent the majority of this season in reserve grade before he joined the Tigers, while Matulino has also had stints in the Intrust Super Premiership in 2017.

Josh Reynolds is arguably the club’s biggest signing for next season, but he also asks the biggest questions.

There’s no doubting Reynolds enthusiasm and competitiveness, but more than anything, Wests need structure. Luke Brooks needs a structured halves partner. By signing Reynolds, coach Ivan Cleary is setting the black and gold up for the same conundrum Canterbury are currently heaped in.

Having two off-the-cuff halves in the form of Josh Reynolds and Moses Mbye have impaired the Bulldogs heavily this year, scoring some amazing tries, but bombing the simplest of them.

The introduction of Matt Frawley into the NRL was a blessing to the Dogs, but even he couldn’t help Canterbury in last week’s 38-0 loss to Penrith.

One possible saviour to this Tigers conundrum rests on one current rumour doing the rounds. Rooster’s young gun Connor Watson is trapped behind in-form halves Luke Keary and Mitchell Pearce, while the signing of James Tedesco has blocked a possible move to fullback for the young prodigy.

Watson has been in hot demand after claiming the Auckland Nines Player of the Tournament earlier this year, and with the Tigers early favourites to snare his signature, it could open the door for Reynolds to move to hooker.

While youngster Jacob Liddle recently ‘got on the bus’ and re-signed until the end of 2019, there are doubts over his ability to play a full 80 minutes. Matt McIllwrick has been solid this season, but he doesn’t possess the X-factor required to really push the top teams.

All this begs the question – have the Tigers recruited smartly so far? Would throwing the player’s salary at Cooper Cronk have been a wiser move? It’s still a year until we’ll know, but the early signs aren’t great.

Wests Tigers 2021 Player Movements

2021 Gains
Shawn Blore (Penrith Panthers, 2021), Stefano Utoikamanu (Parramatta Eels, 2023)
2021 Losses
Harry Grant (Melbourne Storm), Paul Momirovski, Corey Thompson (Gold Coast Titans)
Re-Signed
Luke Garner (2022), Tommy Talau (2022), Alex Twal (2022)
Off Contract 2020
Oliver Clark, Matthew Eisenhuth, Robert Jennings, Chris Lawrence, Benji Marshall, Sam McIntyre, Chris McQueen, Alex Seyfarth, Dylan Smith, Elijah Taylor

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