Wests Tigers 2019 season preview


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    Wests Tigers 2019 season preview

    Author

    Alicia NewtonNRL.com Reporter

    Timestamp

    Wed 27 Feb 2019, 08:01 AM

    Alicia Newton

    After a ninth-placed finish in 2018, the question continues to linger for the Wests Tigers – if not this year, then when?

    After the Warriors were able to clinch a finals berth last season, that leaves Wests Tigers as the only club who haven’t made the top eight since 2012.

    Gone is Ivan Cleary, along with the bus clichés, as the club looks to move past a unique but difficult coaching period that left the joint venture searching for yet another new leader and off-field stability.

    Michael Maguire’s arrival will bring a different approach towards training and games, but if one club and its core players are used to a change of pace, it’s the Tigers.

    Despite two off-field incidents over the summer and the suspension of club CEO Justin Pascoe, the side looks relatively settled and boast their strongest squad in more than five seasons.

    The futures of club favourites Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah could be decided by season’s end. It shapes as no better motivation to possibly send both life members out on a successful note – starting with a finals finish.

    The 2019 outlook

    What’s new

    Along with Maguire, the club has added Sydney Roosters duo Ryan Matterson and Paul Momirovski to the squad, while Rabbitoh front-rower Zane Musgrove is also on board and looking to add to his 27 NRL games.

    The key will be the fitness of key players like Josh Reynolds, who will almost feel like a new recruit for the club after managing just five games last season.

    Five key matchups of the Wests Tigers’ 2019 draw

    The draw

    Wests Tigers will kick off the 2019 season in quieter circumstances to last year when they faced the Roosters, Broncos and the Storm twice in the opening five weeks.

    Leichhardt Oval will host round one with the Tigers taking on arch-rivals Manly on March 16, before a further two home clashes in Campbelltown against the Warriors and Bulldogs.

    All eyes will be on the side’s round four clash against Penrith at Panthers Stadium with Ivan Cleary taking on the club he walked out on in October.

    In good news for Tigers fans they only have to play the Warriors, Broncos, Storm, Dragons and Sharks once. All those sides finished in the top eight last season.

    Their make-or-break period looms between round eight (v Roosters) through to round 16 where they’ll meet the defending premiers again. In between they face Melbourne (away), Souths (home and away), Penrith (home), Canberra (home) and North Queensland (away).

    The stat that gives you hope

    The Wests Tigers were one of the best defensive teams in the Telstra Premiership last season – for the opening 50 minutes of their clashes at least. They only conceded 30 tries all year during that period of the game.

    They struggled in the final 30 minutes though, conceding 45 tries, indicating fatigue became a factor, even though they were ranked as the best scrambling side.

    Maguire’s gruelling pre-season should hold the Tigers in better stead fitness-wise if they continue with their defensive efforts during the latter stages of the contest.

    The arrival of the premiership-winning coach should also bring more points – Souths averaged 522 points per season during his six-year stint at Redfern.

    Scoring points for the joint venture hasn’t proved easy in recent times despite a ninth-place finish in 2018 – the side averaging just 15.7 per game.

    Fans should be encouraged by Maguire’s average of 21.8 points per game at Souths.

    What you need to know NRL Fantasy-wise

    Esan Marsters ($617,000) and Luke Brooks ($592,000) are coming off career-best years, while Alex Twal averages better than a point a minute in Fantasy so if he gets close to 50 minutes under new coach Michael Maguire he’s on track to become a great buy. Ryan Matterson ($681,000) is a quality signing and is capable of scoring in the mid-50s in Fantasy if given an 80-minute role in the pack.

    The coach

    A refreshed Maguire returns to the NRL following a one-year. Only time will tell what influence the former Rabbitohs mentor will have on his new troops but many judges predict an improved season with a settled squad.

    The club has signed Maguire to a three-year deal and while he’s naturally under pressure to deliver success, he’ll be given time to work closely with playmakers Brooks and Marshall and Farah to unlock the side’s attacking potential and also give them a harder edge.

    With a 56% win rate across six seasons at Redfern, the club has got a coach that can take the side to the next level required.

    “It’s given me a fresh mind to jump back in and I’m really looking forward to going back to coaching again and being around the players, to be around the boys and form a team that can build something special,” Maguire said.

    Play like Tarzan: Fonua ready to fire after pre-season

    Contract matters

    Three of the club’s longest serving players Marshall, Farah and Lawrence will all have decisions to make around their NRL futures with the trio headlining at least a dozen players off-contract in 2019.

    The club locked in Luke Brooks before Christmas in a boost for the club, while Jacob Liddle, Mahe Fonua and Josh Aloiai are other names that could come under the radar of rival clubs.

    It shapes as a huge year for 22-year-old Liddle, who is off contract at the end of 2019. A big year could see him lock up the No.9 long term, especially if Farah retires at season’s end as expected.

    The burning question

    Can the Wests Tigers respond to Maguire’s coaching ways early and break their finals drought?

    After five different coaches and plenty of upheaval, the patience of their loyal fans would have to be wearing thin.

    No players are aware of the drought more than those who were part of the last Tigers side to taste September action (Farah, Marshall and Lawrence) and those who have been brought through the junior system over the past five years, like 100-game players Brooks and David Nofoaluma.

    Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks.

    Wests Tigers halfback Luke Brooks.©Nathan Hopkins/NRL Photos

    Representative bolter

    Few could argue with the form of Luke Brooks in 2018 after he almost single-handedly carried the side with an ever-changing spine at his disposal.

    Expectation has been on the 24-year-old since he made his NRL debut in 2013.

    He produced easily his best season last year with five tries, 10 try assists, 21 forced drop outs, 19 offloads and an average 83.3 running metres per game to be crowned Dally M halfback of the year.

    The NSW side looks to have settled on Nathan Cleary for the long term but in case of any injuries, Brooks could be knocking on the door if his form flows into the new season.

    The player you should follow on social media

    What better way to welcome a new player to the club than by giving them a follow on Instagram. Ryan Matterson’s arrival to Concord will bring a handy 16.3k followers with him. A frequent poster on the platform, the 24-year-old delivered fans behind-the-scenes moments during his time at the Roosters and will no doubt do the same in his new colours.

    The quote

    “I’m a big believer that the current squad is very capable of doing some big things if we choose to,” Maguire said.

    “If they all come together in the right way there’s no reason they can’t have short-term and long-term success.”

    The 2019 squad

    Alex Twal (2020), Ben Matulino (2020), Benji Marshall (2019), Chris Lawrence (2019), Chris McQueen (2020), Corey Thompson (2019), David Nofoaluma (2021), Dylan Smith (2019), Elijah Taylor (2020), Esan Marsters (2021), Jacob Liddle (2019), Josh Aloiai (2019), Josh Reynolds (2021), Luke Brooks (2019), Luke Garner (2020), Mahe Fonua (2019), Matt Eisenhuth (2019), Michael Chee Kam (2019), Moses Mbye (2022), Oliver Clark (2020), Paul Momirovski (2020), Robbie Farah (2019), Robbie Rochow (2019), Russell Packer (2021), Ryan Matterson (2022), Zane Musgrove (2021), Sam McIntyre (2019), Thomas Mikaele (2019), Tyson Gamble (2019).

    Note: These club squads are subject to change. Each club is required to submit 29 of their official 30-man playing squad to the NRL by March 1. The final spot in theses rosters can remain free up until June 30.



  • That amount of tries conceded in the last 30 minutes is horrendous. Makes you woner if a bigger pack would be the best option or not.


  • ForumSupporter

    @gallagher:

    That amount of tries conceded in the last 30 minutes is horrendous. Makes you woner if a bigger pack would be the best option or not.

    Goes to show you can only scramble for so long before it becomes ineffective…a lot of points conceded were from mid season to the back end on as well…takes a toll



  • another word is ‘desperate’



  • Well as a way of comparison, we’d really need to look at the same stat for other clubs. Tigers were, I think, 5th-best defence of 2018 and therefore total tries conceded would be better than most of the sides.

    It may be that actually many sides concede far more tries in the last 30 minutes - both due to fatigue and due to increased desperation of the opponent to get a result. Particularly when Tigers are acknowledged as the best scrambling defence in 2018, and you would expect scrambling defence is important at the end of matches.

    So personally I don’t think conceding more tries in the back 30 is particularly bad if overall tries are low compared to average. Does it really matter if you concede tries early or expend the bulk of your energy not conceding tries early? Games aren’t won at 50 minutes.

    It could potentially be saying that if Tigers could increase their fitness beyond 2018 levels, they might reduce the scoring rates at the back end of games and be an even better side.

    As Geo noted also, how many of those “late conceded” tries were from the handful of hammerings we copped? E.g Raiders, conceding a billion points in the second half.

    What I am pleased with is that the old nemesis for Tigers - conceding tries between 30-50 minutes, the “half-time flop” - did appear to be addressed.



  • @Geo:

    Goes to show you can only scramble for so long before it becomes ineffective…a lot of points conceded were from mid season to the back end on as well…takes a toll

    Well said - the effort was there for 90% of last season - there were only a couple of games where we really tanked and didn’t show up, but as good as the scramble defence was, it wasn’t helped by a lack of point scoring ability - we just lacked pace in the outside backs and a general lack of creativity. There were plenty of times we had good field position but just didn’t throw enough at the opposition. We need more bodies in motion this season to correct that issue.



  • I see the coach as the biggest difference this year. He will get this team turning up week in week out.
    Cleary’s style is always quite conservative. Granted he didn’t have the best squad to work with. Keep resetting Defence, the scramble takes all the energy out of the the attack.
    Rather than turning defence into attack and getting on the front foot.
    Madge will get the team going forwards.



  • Can only hope that our attack in the opposition 20 has improved greatly. Was painful viewing last season once we got to their 20.



  • A composed, deliberate and methodical defense will do wonders for our attack…. Fatigue mentally I think takes its toll on us late in games more so than physically… But being fitter and more capable in defense late in games hopefully will help our composure under the pump



  • dam.

    NRL Casualty Ward: Injury mishap will see Tigers star miss season start

    NRL TEAMS

    Wests Tigers star Chris Lawrence has suffered a broken jaw while training in the lead-up to the club’s trial match with the Warriors in Auckland.

    saying the veteran back-rower will “miss the start of the 2019 season”.

    They’ll have more of an idea of the recovery time once Lawrence consults a surgeon later on Thursday.



  • @willow:

    Goes to show you can only scramble for so long before it becomes ineffective…a lot of points conceded were from mid season to the back end on as well…takes a toll

    Well said - the effort was there for 90% of last season - there were only a couple of games where we really tanked and didn’t show up, but as good as the scramble defence was, it wasn’t helped by a lack of point scoring ability - we just lacked pace in the outside backs and a general lack of creativity. There were plenty of times we had good field position but just didn’t throw enough at the opposition. We need more bodies in motion this season to correct that issue.

    You guys are describing coaching.



  • @The_Patriot:

    You guys are describing coaching.

    No, I was describing the way we played.





  • Being up to 100kgs gives him a chance now. He looked ok last week.



  • I rate him @gallagher …runs decisive angles, he carried that ISP team at times last year when Drinkwater went to the UK. Good off the short-ball, scored plenty from grubbers - has a good read of the game. His L-R step while catching the ball is his signature move, along with the spin in contact. I really hope he cracks on with the opportunity he has in front of him.


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