Has 2018 been a success for the Wests Tigers?
July 10, 2018 6:40pm EDTJuly 10, 2018 6:26pm EDTSurely we can consider it a great year for the Wests Tigers?
Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET
The Wests Tigers has long been a club associated with underachievement.
Sometimes by bad luck, such as in their debut season 2000, when they were sitting second on the ladder after 17 games, but were unable to overcome the tragic ending of Jarrod McCracken’s career due to a neck injury sustained in a tackle by Melbourne’s Stephen Kearney and Marcus Bai. The Tigers won just two of their last 10 games to finish 10th, a win behind the eighth-placed Sharks.
Other times, by their own hand, comprising a much longer list, such as the Terry Lamb era and that whole John Hopoate debacle, the spat between Tim Sheens and club management in 2012, and the petty squabble between Mick Potter, Robbie Farah and club boss Grant Mayer, which was fuelled by an ancient conversation between Gorden Tallis and Farah some 18 months prior. Mayer refused to do anything and sat back as the club ate itself while the media prodded at it with a stick.
Then came the disgraceful Jason Taylor era, where the focus was on improving defence. While Taylor hit the nail on the head in targeting this area, he did nothing to rectify it, while at the same time did all he could to sabotage the career of Farah, eventually forcing the club legend to head to Souths.
Ivan Cleary replaced Taylor in early 2017 and set his sights solely on fixing the roster and salary cap issues at the club. It saw the loss of Aaron Woods, Mitch Moses and James Tedesco to other clubs, while a host of other pricey players were moved on for various reasons, such as Tim Simona, Matt Ballin, Jamal Idris and Ava Seumanufagai, before going on a buying spree unlike anything the club has seen before.
The Tigers started 2018 with the toughest draw of all NRL sides, but at the halfway point of the season, they were still in the top eight, where they had been since round 1, thanks to some magnificent defence including stunning victories over Sydney (round 1, 10-8) and Melbourne (round 2, 10-8 and round 5, 11-10) as well as a very unlucky loss to Brisbane (round 3, 7-9) in golden point. They also racked up decent wins against Parramatta and Manly - however, a round 7 loss to Newcastle by 2 points was the first of eight losses in their last 10 games, which has seen them plummet from fourth to 10th and six points behind the eighth-placed Warriors.
So has 2018 been a success for the Tigers?
The Tigers’ cap is more or less in tip-top condition. They aren’t over the cap. They aren’t paying any considerable coin to players at other clubs - an issue they long dealt with under Sheens - they don’t have a small few players hogging up the cap and they have depth in nearly all positions across the park, which is also new for the club. The Tigers’ cap has arguably never looked better.
Cleary opted for a team of team players, and not a side dominated by a few big stars. Early on it proved to be brilliant, but as the season hit the midway point, the team has looked tired and out-enthused in many games. One star player could be enough to spark the side. New signing Moses Mbye could just prove to be that player, while Farah’s return could also pick up the team.
When compared to the same point in every other season (ie – after playing 16 games) the 2018 Tigers side has the second-worst attack, better than only the 2013 outfit. After 16 games in 2018, they have scored 242 points. The 2013 side scored 238. The 2018 season is one of just seven Tigers seasons that has seen the club score less than 300 points after 16 games.
Here comes the flipside. The Tigers’defence in 2018 is the best the club has ever seen, conceding less than 300 points after 16 games for the first time in its history. The 295 points conceded in 2018 beats the record set by 2000 and 2011, where 312 points were let in.
The Tigers sit in 10th place in 2018 after 16 games. The last time they were placed better was in 2012 when they sat in ninth place.
So far, the Tigers are averaging 17,219 per home game, which is well up on last year’s 13,551. It’s the highest since 2011, where they averaged 17,852 and is the fourth-best year for Tigers home crowds in their history, with only 2005’s 19,379 and 2006’s 19,357 the only other better years.
The things that matter to a club - salary cap, crowd figures and competitiveness - are all massively improved in 2018. Cleary has done an immense amount of great work in a short period. For 2019, he has to have his sights firmly set on finals football. As for 2018, as odd as it may sound when looking at the ladder and their current form, 2018 has indeed been quite a success for the Wests Tigers, with plenty of good to build upon moving
By Andrew Ferguson
Updated at 6:40 p.m. ET
10th July 2018