Video on link as well
Wests Tigers are in no man’s land and look doomed to another finals failure next season, largely due to a diabolical salary cap, rugby league great Peter Sterling says.
The Tigers finished 11th this year, winning just seven games from 20. Their finals drought will sit at 10 years as of next season.
Sterling told Wide World of Sports that Wests Tigers were perpetually “treading water” and weren’t in a strong position to reverse their mediocrity. ‘Sterlo’ rated Tigers captain and Queensland State of Origin player Moses Mbye “particularly disappointing”; epitomising the struggles of a club with a talent deficit compared to most NRL rivals.
On top of their roster issues, partly addressed by an eight-player cleanout this week, the Tigers were one of just five sides to concede more than 500 points this season.
Wests Tigers captain Moses Mbye dives over for a try against the Bulldogs this season. (Getty)
“Until they can defend their way to a victory, they’re not going to play finals,” Sterling said, in a Wests Tigers season review with Mat Thompson.
"I see them in the same spot [in 2021]. I see them close to the eight, I don’t see them further down than 12th; they’re just in that no man’s land sort of limbo area.
“It may well be ninth, which will be frustrating again, but it could be 11th.”
The Tigers are still regarded as an attacking team, yet their 22 points per game was blown away by 25 points per game conceded this season. In their final match, they scored 24 points but allowed the Eels to score 28.
Coach Michael Maguire just completed his second season at the club and his mission to make the Tigers tougher is proving an extremely slow burn.
“It’s a difficult club to assess because you can see positive signs there but they’re just not making that improvement needed,” Sterling said.
"They are obviously in a difficult position in regards to their salary cap as well and that has been the case for a while. They signed some players on big money, the likes of Russell Packer, Josh Reynolds; hasn’t been a lot of value out of that at all.
“So until they can get their cap in order, that’s going to be sort of a millstone around their neck for a little while yet.”
Sterling said that signing Penrith captain James Tamou was an excellent move for the club and stressed that Wests Tigers should keep the faith with halfback Luke Brooks.
“I think Tamou’s a great signing. he’s a really good leader, I think there’s still football left in him, he’s a big body,” Sterling said.
"He knows about success, he’s come from successful organisations, he’s a representative player. I think that’s a very, very positive signing for the club.
“I still think there is a lot of upside for Luke Brooks. I’m strong in my opinion that his best football is clearly still in front of him.”
Yet Sterling suggested that the Tigers needed to find a better foil in the halves to push Brooks to the next level. Club hero Benji Marshall has been moved on and Reynolds has not been effective at No.6.
“They [must] find someone that takes a little bit of pressure off him,” Sterling said.
"A little bit maybe like Jamal Fogarty coming in alongside Ash Taylor [at the Titans]. If they can just find the right foil for Luke Brooks … he’s a quality player. Two years ago, he was the Dally M Halfback of the Year. We know what he can do.
"But I think some decisions have to be made. Josh Reynolds, what do you do with him? I think Moses Mbye has been particularly disappointing.
"A decision also has to be made on Adam Doueihi. I’m a fan of Adam Doueihi. There is a line of thought that maybe his best position is centre.
"We saw him play the last game at five-eighth against Parramatta and he looked very, very good, especially with some of his cut-out passes.; he put his winger away in the corner on a few occasions. I still like him at fullback and I still think there’s a lot of improvement there.
"Michael Maguire needs to come up with … the one, six, seven and nine are so important. They’re going to lose their most influential player next year, in Harry Grant. There’s things to work with there with the Tigers but they just don’t seem to be getting it right and the salary cap continues to be an issue for them.
“[Hooker] Jacob Liddle has been around a long time and has always looked like a player that’s got prospects but he’s had injury concerns. Again, I’m not quite sure if he is the answer there. I think they’ll be going to market as well.”
Harry Grant was outstanding in his loan move from Melbourne Storm to Wests Tigers. (Getty)
Sterling said that back-rower Luciano Leilua had been a plus for the Tigers but his brother, wayward centre Joey Leilua, remained a headache. His season was highlighted by a ban for decking Penrith fullback Dylan Edwards with a flagrant late coathanger hit.
“He is [a game-breaker] but he’s a leap of faith, isn’t he, Joey,” Sterling said.
"We know the ability that he has there, but certainly his brother was far more successful in his performances, consistent performances on a weekly basis.
“With Joey Leilua, you know what you’re going to get. There’s going to be a lot of bad with the good, unfortunately.”
Sterling rated young forwards Sam McIntyre and Luke Garner as positives, while 17-try flyer David Nofoaluma was perhaps the NRL’s best winger this season and worthy of NSW State of Origin consideration.
Nothing to exciting to me, pretty accurate summation.
However he see’s AD as a fullback is interesting.