As our Rugby League off-season continues to boil with stories of poaching, player misbehaviour and conferences – one Sydney based team that has been quietly building their troops for an assault on the 2008 NRL is the Wests Tigers.
Already boasting the likes of Benji Marshall, Brett Hodgson and Robbie Farrah – the Tigers initially built up their forward stocks by signing boom Dragons big man Corey Payne. Now the Tigers have pulled off a real coup in luring another former Dragon; Matt Head back from the UK Super League.
The talented Head lost his chance with the Dragons, when the clubs patience ran out over his injury woes. There was never a question mark over Heads ability, the sharp halfback forcing the Dragons to offload the impressive Brett Firman only a year before. The Dragons impatience may be the Wests Tigers big gain, as the western Sydney NRL club continue to improve their roster for 2008.
Matt Head will be kept busy earning his halfback spot at the Tigers; as Wests also boast an upcoming junior with impressive bloodlines. Blake Lazarus, cousin of former NRL star Glenn; has continued to impress in lower grades and has his sights set on a first grade half back debut in the near future. A Western Suburbs junior, Lazarus spent time in the Parramatta competition before being scouted to the Wests under 20’s squad.
The recruitment drive has also netted the Wests Tigers Nick Youngquest, the journey man outside back spending time more recently with Penrith. Youngquest will add speed and agility to the Wests backline and the added bonus of more goal kicking options. A talented, and also experienced Youngquest will cover nicely for the loss of Kiwi International Paul Whatuira who leaves to join the UK Super League.
With their roster filled now for 2008, the Tigers look to have plugged some holes well and added some firepower to get them back into the NRL Rugby League semi-finals for the first time since winning the prize in 2005. Coach Tim Sheens continues to have a positive effect on the club and his access to more playing talent; the likes of Matt Head, Nick Youngquest and Corey Pain only gives him more options and punch on the field.