13/04/2024

A new era of Tigers rugby league. (Image: Wests Tigers/X)

The Tigers had another year as the wooden spooners and another chaotic year under the previous regime. 

Last year

Head Coach Tim Sheens left midway through 2023, with Benji Marshall taking the reins and hopes to build something special for the future.

Being one of the worst on both offence and defence, the Tigers struggled to look like a footy team on the field to showcase. 

The rise of Jahream Bula allowed the Tigers to build in a new direction, deciding not to resign Daine Laurie who was their fullback.

Bula’s try-saving defence and offensive ability were shown immediately despite the Tigers losing games.

Their most significant win was against the Panthers, where they would win by four with Bula at fullback. 

The club changed recruitment managers, as Benji did not have to align views with them. 

Shane Richardson stepped in as the interim CEO, looking to help build the Tigers on an upward trajectory.

Squad Changes

Ins: Solomon Alaimalo (Super Rugby), Solomona Faataape (Brisbane Tigers), Latu Fainu & Samuela Fainu (Manly Sea Eagles), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm), Aidan Sezer (Leeds Rhinos, Super League), Jayden Sullivan (St George Dragons)

Outs: Shawn Blore (Melbourne Storm), Luke Brooks & Aitasi James (Manly Sea Eagles), Daine Laurie (Penrith Panthers), Rua Ngatikaura (North Sydney Bears NSW Cup), David Nofoaluma (released, signed with Salford FC – Super League), Tuki Simpkins (Dolphins, train and trial), Tommy Talau (Manly Sea Eagles), Brandon Wakeham (Blacktown Workers, NSW Cup), Brandon Webster-Mansfield (released)

Track Watch

Justin Olam arrived at the Tigers in a swap deal and played a solid outing in the trials to warrant a starting centre spot. 

With his defensive ability, Benji will be looking for guys to be effective in both aspects of the game.

Alex Seyfarth had an impressive off-season, likely locking in the starting lock role with his hard work through the middle.

Jayden Sullivan and Aidan Sezer started in the halves in the pre-season, and until the Tigers play a large amount of games, expect this combination to stick around for a while.

Lachlan Galvin could be in the play for the six jersey, having impressive performances in the trial games with his playmaking and maturity, making the right reads on the attack.

Adam Doueihi is also recovering from his season-ending injury that occurred in the Easter Monday clash against the Parramatta Eels in 2023. With the recovery most likely to finish halfway through the year, expect him to be possibly a few games in the back half of the season if Benji wants to go in a particular direction in the backline.

More NRL News:

What to Expect

It is a rebuilding period for the Tigers before Jarome Luai arrives, investing in their juniors and getting well adjusted to Benji’s expectations of play and culture, as well as work ethic and effort to help win games. 

With a ball movement type offence, Sezer and his outside playmaking partner, whoever that may be, will hope to have a combination and put guys like Bula over for tries and get their forwards in tough carries that allow them to generate field position and territory to have opportunities in their opponents half of the field.

The sophomore year for the fullback could be a bit of a struggle. However, he is looking for a big year where he gets more time with the ball in his hands and plays off the back of Sezer’s game management and Api Koriosau’s dummy half-play.

It’s a big year for:

Aidan Sezer

Another stint in the NRL for Aidan Sezer is a huge opportunity, and if he can steer around the Tigers the way Benji wants, the Tigers could have a solid year with Sezer at halfback.

With Sezer’s game being more game-managing and setting up his teammates for success, the Tigers’ young players can focus on their strengths and improve immediately.

Having a lot of experience in both the NRL and Super League, Sezer knows what it takes to be a quality playmaker and lead the forward pack they have, as well as play a 2 man game with dummy half Api Koriosau that can allow their teammates to play off the back of their service.

Biggest unanswered question?

Who will be Jarome Luai’s partner in 2025?

The Tigers have depth in the halves outside of Luai. Lachlan Galvin, Jayden Sullivan and Latu Fainu are quality halves with lots of potential in the five-eighth jersey and have lots of skill and versatility to complement a version of Luai that has a lot of the playmaking responsibilities.

Galvin has shown NRL quality play with his versatility on the edge, having played in the halves and back-row on his way to the Tigers, as well as showing he can pick apart defences with his passing and short kicking game with his size to go toe-to-toe against the defence.

Sullivan and Fainu have great running games. The former Dragon has also played in the dummy half role, being able to play from different perspectives on the field. 

Fainu has a freestyle creative flow to his game, showing his quickness off the catch of the ball and his ability to manoeuvre past defenders with his shifty approach to mismatches against any opposing defender.

This season will be a strong indicator of who will be the long-term partner of the Penrith five-eighth they signed this off-season on a five-year deal starting from 2025.

Coach Index

Benji Marshall – Safe

With only half a season of full-time coaching in 2023, Benji is starting his deal as the head coach earlier than scheduled.

Predicted Round 2 Lineup

  1. Jahream Bula 
  2. Brent Naden 
  3. Justin Olam
  4. Starford To’a 
  5. Junior Tupou
  6. Jayden Sullivan 
  7. Aidan Sezer
  8. David Klemmer
  9. Api Koroisau
  10. Stefano Utoikamanu
  11. John Bateman
  12. Isaiah Papalii 
  13. Alex Seyfarth
  14. Jake Simpkin
  15. Alex Twal
  16. Samuela Fainu
  17. Fonua Pole

Ladder Prediction

The Tigers will most likely be a bottom-four team, with a lot of time to develop and experiment with their top 30 and development players.

This team is not afraid of changing things around to get it right. At their best, if consistent at times, they could place 13th, but that would take a stretch of quality wins that simply this version of the Tigers doesn’t look like it can spark.

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