Fair warning, this is going to be a long post, so either grab a beer/put the kettle on, pick and choose topics, or just comment based on the title
I’ve had enough of this season so I figured it’s as good a time as any to look forward and have a look at what next year may hold for our beloved Tigers. We’ve finished off poorly but I think early on this year we showed signs that we can be a real force, and the development of some players (and lack thereof of others) can be considered when looking at next year.
First off, backs.
I think we’re doing relatively well in terms of backs, with experience being the only real drawback. Moses played well last round and held his own defensively, so I’d have to change my opinion on Austin starting over him. His combination with Brooks is undoubtedly the way forward, and as much as I think Blake provides to the club, I don’t have a spot for him in the 17, and unless he’s content to be a back up I would not begrudge him leaving. I’d like to see Lulia moved on, with only one more year for Richards. The club is evidently putting their stock in our juniors, so I don’t necessarily subscribe to us needing to buy a strike centre/winger. We have the talent, it just needs to be fostered through.
My first choice back line would be:
Easily been one of our biggest strengths this year, I don’t think anyone would debate that, but I’d like to see a bit of a change/refinement of our tactics. The so-called bash bench was vital, and I think that MO should be applied to the whole pack. I’d like to see Thompson let go, as good as he has been for us this year, and Dene given an assistant coach/mentoring/some form of involvement at NSW Cup level, if only to foster a sense of professionalism in the lower grades that will help the transition to firsts. Looking at the likes of the Storm or the Roosters, their back rowers hit the line hard, have good hands, and constantly look for offloads; something I think we need to move towards, instead of small tackle machines.
I’m a fan of Galloway, but I wouldn’t have him in my top 25 for next year. I also think Blair has earned the co-captaincy, he’s probably been my pick for player of the season to this point, and is quickly becoming one of my favourites. I wouldn’t want much more than 2 or 3 more years out of Farah either.
All things considered, my first choice pack for next year would be:
It’s pretty obvious that a big bench is the way to go, and I’d carry that through to next year, but with a 2-2 prop-back row split, instead of the 3-1 we seem to go with. This would give our young props more of a chance to work in to a spell while maintaining impact in our back row. Sironen must show impact, otherwise I would drop him for Santi to spell Blair.
My first choice bench would be:
Top 25 and the second tier salary cap have been a major issue for us over the past two seasons, and while injuries are largely unavoidable, there have been some mistakes and misjudgments that have cost us dearly. Having the likes of Vela and Moltzen on top tier contracts when they can hardly string together without getting injured. That being said, I’m keeping Moltzen in my top 25 purely on his utility value. I don’t get to watch much lower grades due to geographical reasons, but everything I’ve seen of Fine and Hitchcox, combined with what I’ve gleaned from other comments, suggests that they deserve to be next cabs off the rank if injury strikes. Hitchcox has jumped Rowe in my queue as well, and between him, Moltzen and Austin we have enough cover for fullback should Teddy go down again.
Without knowing the ins & outs of contracts, this would round out my top 25:
Fifth, the leftovers.
As much as Gavet impressed me early in the season, I just don’t think we can carry him in our top 25. He is lazy in defence, and obviously has off field issues and a questionable attitude. I haven’t seen enough of Lovett or Vela to comment on their long term potential, though from what I’ve seen of Kyle we have better options. I’d like to see Liolevave given a run in NSW Cup over the year to see if he can impress without his instinctive combination with Martin, if so then he’d fit well in what I’d like to see from our team. I don’t have room for Rowe, though if Austin gets a better offer and leaves (eg. Sezer to the Roosters rumour could see him go to the Titans) then I’d keep him on.
Lastly, Coach and Tactics.
As untenable as Potter’s job is, this post is based on what I would prefer, so I’d keep Potter there, providing he shows more adaptability in game situations. He seems to be very structured in his interchange, sometimes to the detriment of momentum. Our bench needs to be used to break the game open, and in Woods and Ava I think we have props capable of consistently making metres while holding their own defensively, before Taupau and Lodge wreak havoc. If all the rumours and speculation are true then I’d like to see Payten moved on and replaced by an experienced coach to serve as a guide, similar to Neil Henry at the Titans or Mark Williams at GWS. If the team does not reach expectations (and I think a top 8 finish is a must) then we need to look elsewhere.