Ladder Position: 14th
Points For: 413
Points Against: 571
Top Try Scorer: Kevin Naiqama (9 tries)
Home Record: 3 wins, 9 losses
Away Record: 4 wins, 8 losses
Highlight of the Season
The highlights of the Wests Tigers season have been the successful transition of Ivan Cleary into the role of head coach and the great form which Luke Brooks finished the season with at half-back. The Tigers finished the 2017 season as a significantly better team than the one of the first 10 rounds presented.
The unearthing of young gun centre Esan Marsters is a reason for great anticipation amongst Wests Tigers fans in future seasons to come. A decent finish to a season where the club only won seven games in total is another reason to inspire fans for the 2018 season.
Lowlight of the Season
The first low point came with the sacking of Jason Taylor after just three games of the season. Taylor’s sacking came after big losses to the Penrith Panthers (36-2) and the Canberra Raiders in (46-6). The decision created internal strife within the squad, with Mitchell Moses requesting a realise in order to join Parramatta just week after Cleary was announced as the new coach.
Another low light of the season was the confirmation that stars Aaron Woods and James Tedesco were indeed leaving the club for the 2018 season. Three of the ‘big four’ were now confirmed to be leaving, a decision which angered and disappointed many fans.
What Went Right
Coach Cleary has convinced many Tigers fans of his coaching ability and his vision for the future of the club. He has brought a calmness, reliability, and knowledge to the club that was seemingly missing in previous years. Cleary has signed a great list of new signings for the 2018 season, creating hope and vision in a time where the club is losing its two best players.
Luke Brooks has begun to repay the faith and money put into him, highlighting his talent which has often not been seen during his time in first-grade football. Moses leaving the club has given Brooks the opportunity to take full control of the team on the paddock and he has shown great organising skills and a talented kicking game.
What Went Wrong
Despite bright moments in the latter stages of the season, this year has been a failure on the whole. It took a final day victory against the New Zealand Warriors to snatch 14th place, having spent most of 2017 fighting off a potential wooden spoon. The board had created a recipe for disaster, with over half of the squad out of contract at the end of this season, including, as previously mentioned, the big four.
Stand Out Player
Elijah Taylor stands out as the Wests Tigers best player this season and has widely tipped to be the club’s next captain off the back of his impressive showings.
Cleary has coached Taylor previously at the Warriors and Panthers so knows exactly what to expect from him. He has become a fan favourite, largely thanks to his high work rate and consistent topping of the tackle count. He is also an efficient edge runner and good ball player, two factors which have helped him have a strong 2017.
Marsters has stood out as the best rookie having been impressive in his 12 2017 appearances. He is a big centre who wouldn’t look out of place in the second row. Despite being a huge figure, his speed, agility and footwork make him a dangerous attacking prospect. A big 2018 season beckons for the versatile centre.
Moses Suli also impressed in the centres and on the wing. He had signed a sizeable contract before making his first grade debut and he has rewarded the club’s faith with some solid displays this year. Suli will be another one to watch out for next season.
Recruitment for 2018
2018 Gains: Mahe Fonua (Hull FC), Tyson Gamble, Tuimoala Lolohea (New Zealand Warriors), Benji Marshall (Brisbane Broncos), Ben Matulino (New Zealand Warriors), Chris McQueen (Gold Coast Titans), Taane Milne (St George Illawarra Dragons), Russell Packer (St George Illawarra Dragons), Josh Reynolds (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs), Robbie Rochow (Melbourne Storm), Corey Thompson (Widnes Vikings), Alex Twal (Parramatta Eels), Malakai Watene-Zelezniak (Penrith Panthers)
2018 Losses: Matt Ballin (retired), Mitchell Moses (Parramatta Eels), Ryan Papenhuyzen (Melbourne Storm), Jordan Rankin (Huddersfield Giants), Ava Seumanufagai (Cronulla Sharks), James Tedesco (Sydney Roosters), Aaron Woods (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs)
The offset of Woods to the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs is largely nulled by the recruitment of Russell Packer from the St-George Illawarra Dragons and Ben Matulino from the New Zealand Warriors. The signing of Josh Reynolds will see the position of five-eighth covered as Tuimoala Lolohea could return to fullback.
Tigers legend Benji Marshall returns to the club where he won a Premiership in 2005 with for a farewell season, much to the delight of many fans. Marshall is likely to play a mentoring role whilst possibly coming off the bench for the Tigers, much like his current situation under Wayne Bennett at Brisbane.
The addition of Chris McQueen adds some experience to the Tigers forward pack, whilst the additions for the 2018 season of Taane Milne and Mahe Fonua provides depth to the outside backs.
Where to from here?
Stability has returned to the club after a few tumultuous seasons. A popular coach and a string of new signings provides great promise for the 2018 season and beyond for the Tigers. Much will rely on the new halves partnership of Reynolds and Brooks but Wests Tigers fans should expect a much more exciting season than this year’s lowly finish provided.
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