Oh, what a year to forget for the Wests Tigers. A wooden spoon, player upheaval, seemingly poor management from all levels, a sacking of the coach and inconsistent form, 2022 was a year to forget for the Tigers.
The bigger question is; can it get any better in 2023 with the addition of a few recruits and perhaps more to come? For Tigers fans, you would hope so, as they yearn for another appearance in the finals. They have failed to make the NRL finals since 2011.
There is some upside to their team given their promising junior development and the addition of some club legends to the coaching ranks might provide a fresh insight.
Will that all be enough to make a difference? Time will tell but something has to change quick and soon for the Tigers collectively or they could face yet another year of despair.
What does the addition of Api Koroisau mean?
Whether the money lured him over a final payday or whether it was a new challenge for Koroisau, there is no denying that his addition to the Tigers side addresses a huge, huge need for the club.
A star hooker, a star player and someone with some x-factor and ooomph, to the point where he can single-handedly change a game.
Although he has had his off-field issues in the past that have drawn the ire of his current Penrith Panthers fans, if Koroisau can focus on footy and keep it altogether, he looms as a tremendous addition.
Often seen as one of the elite hookers in the game, many have him sitting just behind Harry Grant and some even in front, based on his ability to play eyes up footy.
Koroisau plays what he sees and is smart enough in his position to bide his time and wait for the opportune moment to strike, be it a run of his own that splits the defence or a crafty crash play for a forward to barge over.
Settling into a new team will perhaps take him a few weeks, maybe longer but there is no denying that his ability will help take the pressure off the halves in attack and give them a different dimension to what they currently have or don’t have.
Is it time to move on from Luke Brooks?
The Luke Brooks saga has had more twists and turns than a car going down a winding road; some of these twists being good and others being bad.
As Brooks is continuously linked with a move elsewhere, somehow, invariably, he always seems to end up staying with the Tigers.
But the question must be asked; when is enough enough? When does the club bite the bullet and decide that to completely move on, they need to split ties to Brooks?
The school of thought from some is that Brooks is not a bad player and certainly, statistically, he seems to perform at a relatively decent level.
But halves play is never just about the statistics you put down on a stat sheet. It is about so much more and you have to wonder whether Brooks is able to reach that next level in Tigers colours.
What does not work in Brooks’ favour is that there is constant speculation that players will come in to potentially replace him.
Big names like Cameron Munster or Mitch Moses have been linked by media – whether either joins or whether it’s paper talk is anyone’s guess – but it does not bode well for Brooks.
In the years that he has been with the club, he has just not been able to consistently manufacture the form you want from him to set the benchmark for his side.
And now with the speculation that the Newcastle Knights remain keen on him, many are wondering whether 2022 is the last year that we will see of Brooks in Tigers’ colours.
Will the top eight curse finally end for the Tigers?
As everyone knows it has been a long time since the Wests Tigers have made the finals, much to the disappointment of their passionate fan base.
Whether it has been due to injuries, poor form, a lack of cohesion, not enough trust in coaches or having to constantly overhaul rosters, it is clear that the Tigers need one thing and they need it fast.
Continuity. And with the return of former coach Tim Sheens at the helm – with the plan the being for Benji Marshall to take over – it is hoped that they will be able to have that.
At the end of the day, teams become consistent and make finals regularly when they have a large core of players and coaches remaining together for a period of years with minimal change.
What works in the Tigers favour is that there is no denying that the roster has some talent.
With the likes of Adam Doueihi, Shawn Blore, Ken Maumalo, Alex Twal and several others, the crux of what can be a good side is there.
But they need to play for each other, have each others backs’, work hard consistently and buy into the culture that the club needs to so desperately create.
There is no easy fix here for the Tigers and perhaps top aspirations may yet be 2-3 years away until they have found that mid-level that sees everyone on the same page.
But the signs are promising and with the right tweaks, the right balance, and the right signings, a top eight berth ma be something the Tigers see sooner rather than later. Perhaps just not in 2023.
Player to Watch
He may have already played first-grade and finished the year quite strongly, it must be said, but a guy who Tigers fans will hope can use that experience to become even better is Fonua Pole.
A young, hulking forward, Pole proved that he belongs in the NRL with hard hits, good metres, and a work ethic that any forward could be proud of.
In his limited minutes, he was able to make the most of his chances and stand out enough that Tigers’ fans were noticing him – of course, they would have previously in the lower ranks as well.
But with a possible spot up for grabs in the middle, Pole gave himself every opportunity to be considered for it.
And if he does get the nod, it means more minutes – something he is capable of and frankly, does deserve – which gives him even more chances to impress. At his best, it’s tough to leave the kid out of the side and maybe even the starting 13.
2022 Wests Tigers player movements
Gains: John Bateman (Wigan Warriors), Sione Fainu (Manly Sea Eagles), David Klemmer (Newcastle Knights), Apisai Koroisau (Penrith Panthers), Isaiah Papali’i (Parramatta Eels), Will Smith (Gold Coast Titans), Charlie Staines (Penrith Panthers) & Brandon Wakeham (Canterbury Bulldogs).
Losses: Fa’amanu Brown (Canterbury Bulldogs), Luke Garner (Penrith Panthers), Oliver Gildart (Dolphins), Jackson Hastings (Newcastle Knights), Luciano Leilua (North Queensland Cowboys), Jacob Liddle (St George Illawarra Dragons), Jock Madden (Brisbane Broncos), Thomas Mikaele (Warrington Wolves), Zane Musgrove (St George Illawarra Dragons), Tyrone Peachey (Penrith Panthers), James Roberts (retired), James Tamou (North Queensland Cowboys) & Kelma Tuilagi (Manly Sea Eagles).
NRL News predicted 2023 line-up
- Daine Laurie
- Ken Maumalo
- Brent Naden
- Tommy Talau
- David Nofoaluma
- Adam Doueihi
- Luke Brooks
- Stefano Utoikamanu
- Apisai Koroisau
- David Klemmer
- Isaiah Papali’i
- John Bateman
- Joe Ofahengaue
- Rua Ngatikaura
- Fonua Pole
- Shawn Blore
- Alex Twal
Coach: Tim Sheens.