The Wests Tigers had a season to forget, earning themselves the wooden spoon for the first time since the 2000 merger.
Whether it was poor referee decisions, difference in coaching styles or the lack of team chemistry, they only have themselves to blame for finishing last in the 2022 NRL season.
Although they did manage four wins against the Paramatta Eels, South Sydney Rabbitohs, Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs and Brisbane Broncos, it wasn’t enough to scrape off the bottom of the ladder.
The Inner Sanctum takes a look at the year in review for the Wests Tigers.
Finishing position: 16th (four wins, 20 losses)
While nothing on the field worked for the Wests Tigers, off the field was a different story. First, the club opened a Centre of Excellence in Concord which is worth an estimated cost of nearly $80 million. This will help the Tigers develop their younger players in the squad.
Their Jersey Flegg and SG Ball teams have always been good and with the new developmental centre, it will help establish these players into first-grade superstars.
Justin Matamua and Brandon Tumeth got their first opportunity at NRL level this season and competed in the Under 19s State of Origin for the NSW Blues.
Along with the new Centre of Excellence, the Tigers locked up their coaching plan for the road ahead. Premiership winning coach Tim Sheens will be at the helm for the next two years, while club legends Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah will be his two main assistant coaches.
With the new coaching group, the Wests Tigers have invested into their long term plan. The respected Sheens, will hope to bring success back to the orange and black.
As a great attacking team, the squad didn’t fit Michael Maguire’s plan playing through the middle of the field with the forwards. Instead Sheens, will be looking to bring back creativity and flair into their offensive model.
Out of all the things that didn’t work out for the Wests Tigers this season, the major factor was the halves combination of Luke Brooks, Adam Doueihi and Jackson Hastings. The three players failed to find common ground with one another.
Maguire and Brett Kimmorley couldn’t find the right combination between the three players. The halves are the most important part of a team’s attack and contribute heavily to the team’s success.
Unlike other teams, the 2022 season illustrated that the three players don’t get along on the field and all have their own unique style of play.
As Doueihi doesn’t want to play in the centre position, Hastings not wanting to play at lock and the arrival of Api Korisau at hooker, there is only two spots available.
Only two of these three players will be able to stay with the Tigers and it is up to the new coaching staff to decide who stays and who goes.
Off-season recruit Jackson Hastings was the shining light for the Wests Tigers this season. Transferring from the Wigan Warriors in the Super League, he provided Tigers fans with some happiness. The versatile play-maker was seen a variety of roles, which included playing in the halves and at lock.
In his 16 appearances this season, Hastings was instrumental in attack. He provided the team with a winning field goal, seven try assists and four line break assists. With the ball, he averaged 135 running metres and offloaded eight times after initial contact.
Going into the 2023 season, Sheens will be hoping to turn him into a Scott Prince-esque player from the Wests Tigers’ 2005 premiership run. He has proven himself this year and will be looking to turn his good form into wins for the Tigers.
Two rounds – Round 6 and 7. Against tough opposition in two straight weeks, the Wests Tigers pulled off their best performances on Easter Monday against the Paramatta Eels and the following Saturday against the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
They put up a valiant effort against the Eels in the first half, going into the break with a four point lead. The Eels were able to comeback in the second half, but a long distance field goal by Hastings gifted the Tigers their hard-fought first win.
Continuing their form, they would go over the Rabbitohs by one point, thanks to a Brooks field goal. They played an inspirational last 20 minutes to close out the game and earn Maguire a win against his former club.
During the game, the Tigers showed stability and class, completing 95 per cent of their sets, while their opponents would only complete 69 per cent.
Their team statistics also included a try saving tackle, 33 tackle busts and 1,702 total run metres. It seemed like the Tigers were back to their magnificent, best controlling the game in attack.
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Out of all the disappointing games in the season, one that stood out was the Round 23 clash against the Sydney Roosters at the SCG. The Wests Tigers conceded 12 tries in a one-sided demolition and were only able to get back one try in the last eight minutes.
Trying to round out the season on a good note, the Tigers were only able to complete 19 sets and make 126 runs for 1,052 total run metres. In comparison, the Roosters made 2,110 run metres off 207 carries with the ball.
The game rounded out a disappointing season for the Wests Tigers. As the season is now over, they will be hoping this result is a thing of the past as they look towards the 2023 NRL season.
Top off-season priority:
The Wests Tigers will gain two international superstars next season in Api Koroisau and Isaiah Papali’i, who both played in this year’s Grand Final.
Koroisau will add leadership to the forward pack and will help round out their spine. Papali’i will add strength and intensity to the outer edge of the ruck in both defence and attack.
With Cameron Munster firmly committed to the Storm, the Tigers should focus on finding a front-rower to complement Papali’i and representative player Joe Ofahengaue.
Captain James Tamou will leave the club before the 2023 season, which opens up a free position in the front-row. Unfortunately, they are only a few players left who are off-contract from other teams in the league. This list includes former Tigers players Andrew Fifita, Martin Taupau and Matthew Eisenhuth.
However, it also includes foreign props Emry Pere from New Zealand, Franklin Pele from Samoa and Poasa Faamausili from New Zealand.
Out of these six players, Fifita is most likely to come back and play in the orange and black. He is not in the same form he once was, but will fill the Tamou role to perfection. He averaged 64 running metres a games and made 299 tackles at an efficiency rate of 97.4 per cent.
Alongside Fifita, there is another player the Tigers should prioritise. There has been a long history of the Sharks and Tigers signing players from each others clubs. Although only playing one game at the Sharks in a two-year stint, Pele should be pursued.
He helped guide the Newtown Jets to the minor premiership in the Knock-On Effect NSW Cup and is a former Australian Schoolboy. At only 21 years of age, he has shown he has what it takes to be a first-grade player.
Coming from the famed Endeavour Sports High School, he will be able to learn a lot under the guidance of countryman Benji Marshall.
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