IVAN Cleary is driving the bus and he’s ready to steer his club back on track.
Here’s five reasons to get excited about Wests Tigers next season.
It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was only in 2013 that Marshall walked away from the Tigers disillusioned with the club and rugby league in general. Now the prodigal son returns to Concord and it feels right that he ends his career at the place it all started.
Benji’s return might spark memories of the days when the Tigers were one of the most exciting teams in the competition but his role this time around will be significantly different.
He’s dropped down the pecking order in terms of first-choice halves and is more likely to be used by Ivan Cleary in the same way he was at the Broncos by Wayne Bennett. Bennett used Marshall’s footy smarts to help mentor his young halves off the field and he’s likely to play a similar role at the Tigers with Tuimoala Lolohea and Luke Brooks in particular.
Reynolds is a talented player with plenty of experience under his belt but possibly the most important thing his signing brings will be the impact it has on Luke Brooks.
Brooks has barely skimmed the surface on the potential he was said to have when he came on to the scene as a teenager. He’s shown glimpses of how great he can be but his combination with Reynolds could be the way to unlock his untapped talent.
On paper they complement each other in the exact way a halves pairing should. Reynolds is a ballrunner and is at his best when he isn’t burdened by the responsibility of controlling a game. Brooks can fill in those gaps with his direct playing style and kicking game.
One thing Reynolds doesn’t lack on the field is confidence, an area with which Brooks sometimes struggles. A player with the experience of the fiery five-eighth can help nurture and build that side of Brooks’ game.
The Tigers’ recruitment drive has been in full swing as coach Ivan Cleary looks to rebuild his roster. The signatures of Reynolds and Marshall have dominated the headlines but Cleary has made some astute buys for season 2018. One area that needed shoring up was in the forwards and the addition of Kiwi Test forwards Russell Packer and Ben Matulino will help add some venom upfront. Cleary also picked up Taane Milne from the Dragons. The outside back is only 22 and is developing nicely, his addition will add some strike power in the centres.
A FRESH START
Cleary is on the bus, David Nofoaluma is on the bus and so is everyone else at the Tigers. But just where is the bus heading? To the finals? Fans will be hoping so. Season 2018 feels like a genuine chance at a fresh start for the Concord club after the years of drama. On the field, Cleary’s ability to instil the right attitude and resilience was beginning to show at the back end of the year. Couple the right attitude with the decent recruitment decisions that have been made and anything is possible for the Tigers in 2018.
Let’s face it, who doesn’t love a grudge match? And Tigers fans don’t have to wait too long to get their first chance at sweet revenge when the they take on the Roosters in round one. Fullback James Tedesco is the kind of talent that you can build an entire team around. He was supposed to be that player for the Tigers but, well … rugby league happened and now he’s not part of star-studded Roosters team. Round 12’s clash against the Bulldogs will have some added spice with former skipper Aaron Woods running out for the Bulldogs and of course Belmore’s favourite son, Reynolds, coming up against his old team for the first time.