Clubs in Focus – Wests Tigers
31/01/2014 4:00:00 PM
In the lead up to the 2014 VB NSW Cup season, we will shine the spotlight on all 13 competing teams to see how they are shaping up for the year ahead.
Today we take a look at the Wests Tigers.
Head Coach: Paul Fletcher
Home Ground: Campbelltown Stadium & Leichhardt Oval
Year Entered Competition: 2013
2013 Result: 7th - (11 wins and 13 losses)
2014 Key Signings: Blake Austin (Penrith Panthers), Yileen Gordon (Newtown Jets), Keith Lulia (Bradford Bulls), Cory Paterson (Hull KR), Pat Richards (Wigan Warriors) & Martin Taupau (Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs).
The Wests Tigers are ramping up for a big 2014 in all three grades, but their VB NSW Cup looks set to be in for a bumper year in particular if the clubs top 25 contracted players can stay relatively healthy.
The young crop coming through at ‘Tiger Town’ is arguably one of the best in the game and this has been highlighted by back to back SG Ball titles (Balmain) in 2012 & 2013 which also saw the club go on and claim national titles as well as the Holden Cup Premiership in 2012 which was backed up with a Preliminary Final appearance last season.
And with so much talent on the books, and only 17 NRL spots available on any given week, it appears as though Paul Fletcher and his staff may have a pretty exciting VB NSW Cup outfit to work with in 2014.
If you cast your eye right across the Tigers roster for 2014, there really only appears a few ‘certainties’ for spots in their NRL side come Round One, meaning that the competition for places week in and week out should be extremely intense, which augurs well for the clubs second tier sides, because stand out performances at this level could very well see them suiting up in first grade the following week.
Many fans will be well aware of Luke Brooks and what he is capable of after his exciting first grade debut in 2013, but Coach Fletcher has also earmarked another couple of young cubs who are set for higher honours.
“We have a couple of good young kids in our squad this year in Nathan Brown and Kyle Lovett, so we are really looking forward to watching how they progress,” Fletcher said.
“The off season stuff has been going good… the team and staff have all been doing a great job and are excited about the year ahead.”
Another plus for the club is that despite missing considerable time last year due to injury, players such as Taqele Naiyaravoro and James Gavet are fit and healthy again, adding even further depth to the clubs roster.
Naiyaravoro in particular could be set for a huge 2014 with the hulking Fijian set to break all sorts of try scoring records in 2013 before sitting out the last third of the year with a lower leg injury.
If Naiyaravoro can pick up where he left off, he will look to push the likes of Nofoaluma, Koroibete and Richards for a wing spot in the Tigers NRL side.
As for the Tigers VB NSW Cup ambitions in 2014, Fletcher simplified it like this.
“Our first goal is to make the top eight, hopefully we can stay fairly injury free… if that’s the case, we’ll see where it takes us.”
The Tigers VB NSW Cup team will play upcoming trials against the Panthers, Mounties and Sharks before a Round One trip to Wollongong and WIN Stadium where they will start their campaign against the Illawarra Cutters.
Keep up to date with all of the latest Tigers news right throughout the season by following them on twitter @Wests_Tigers or head to www.weststigers.com.au