Media reports, turmoil, inconsistency, all capped off with yet another year in which the Wests Tigers did not make the finals.
It has been too long between drinks and Tigers fans are desperate to taste that finals atmosphere.
Though what has to be done or what has to change for that to happen? Not a lot but there are key elements that would make a difference.
The question is; can they happen in just one preseason?
At what point do players become just as if not more accountable than the coach?
This is a conundrum that the Tigers have been experiencing since the departure of Tim Sheens as head coach many years ago now.
The idea in rugby league circles is that sacking a coach is always the answer yet retaining the players.
Though at what point does that become a fallacy?
The argument can be made that a lot of the players that have come in were indeed those that Michael Maguire chose.
However, there are others – those who know the Tigers well and not only players – that should be taking more accountability.
Too much pressure is often placed on coaches when it is the players not following a game plan or a philosophy.
All it takes is a bit of discontent and suddenly it is the players v the coach in a battle to the death.
Several players have been unable to reach the lofty heights expected of them at times and have seemingly avoided much criticism.
Is this on the coach or the organisation? And how do you rectify what seems to be an almost systemic problem for the Tigers?
Can they buck the trend in 2022 or will they have to go through a couple more tough years before coming out on top?
The English Invasion
The Tigers, obviously, need some recruits to boost their attacking exploits given the inconsistency from several of their players in 2021.
They will get that in the form of Wigan duo, Oliver Gildart, and Jackson Hastings.
People often think that Super League is some sort of inferior league but these two have been strong performers over numerous seasons.
Hastings is no stranger to NRL fans having previously played for the Sydney Roosters and Manly Sea Eagles.
Gildart is the new boy and a talented centre, an English international, and a player the Tigers desperately need.
He is an instant upgrade over both Leilua and Roberts in the centre position and will also be able to help push and mentor the young backs.
The Tigers probably need a couple more players like these two if they are to get out of the slump they find themselves in.
Nevertheless, it is building nicely, albeit slowly, as the pressure has to be taken off the likes of Daine Laurie and Adam Doueihi.
Is the era of Luke Brooks over?
Luke Brooks. He has been synonymous with the Tigers since the junior grades.
The side was hoping to have the big 4 once upon a time but that dream quickly dissipated and they were left with Brooks only.
Hopes were high, the belief was prevalent, and confidence was a key factor.
Fast forward several years, however, and although there have been good moments from Brooks, have there been great moments?
It would be hard to say yes and that is the sticking point for the Tigers. He has been at the helm and at the root of the Tigers’ hopes for years now.
Is the system letting him down or is Brooks letting the system down?
Tough decisions have to be made before things sink even further, though action like that is difficult without worthy replacements.
Regardless of one’s individual views, a change of scenery may almost be a good thing for Brooks should there be interested suitors.
Then again, does he deserve a final chance with the current recruits and potentially more?
There are more questions than answers about Brooks and his Tigers’ future, yet we are no sooner to knowing what may or may not happen.
Player to Watch
A talented kid is enough to light up the eyes of any fan and the Tigers have a good one in Kelma Tuilagi.
A tall, powerful back-rower, the Samoan-born back-rower has a perfect chance to build on a string of games at the back end of 2021.
With spots potentially up for grabs given some uncertainty about positions, Tuilagi’s chance to become a mainstay is higher than ever.
Highly rated by Tigers fans, his work rate is a solid asset.
With experienced forwards in James Tamou, Joe Ofahengaue, and Alex Twal around him, Tuilagi’s growth in 2022 will be fun to watch.
2022 Wests Tigers gains and losses
Gains: Oliver Gildart (Wigan Warriors), Jackson Hastings (Wigan Warriors), Tyrone Peachey (Gold Coast Titans), Harry O’Kane (local), Henry O’Kane (local), Brandon Tumeth (local), Apisalome Saukuru (local), and Junior Tupou (ACT Brumbies).
Losses: Michael Chee-Kam (South Sydney Rabbitohs), Joey Leilua (Featherstone Rovers), Moses Mbye (St George Illawarra Dragons), Russell Packer (retired), and Billy Walters (Brisbane Broncos).
Our predicted 2022 Wests Tigers team (at full strength)
1. Daine Laurie
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Oliver Gildart
4. Tommy Talau
5. Ken Maumalo
6. Adam Doueihi
7. Luke Brooks
8. Alex Twal
9. Jacob Liddle
10. Stefano Utoikamanu
11. Luke Garner
12. Luciano Leilua
13. Jackson Hastings
14. Tyrone Peachey
15. Thomas Mikaele
16. Kelma Tuilagi
17. Joe Ofahengaue