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Wests Tigers: Contenders or pretenders in 2012?

Roar Guru
9th July, 2012
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Roar Guru
9th July, 2012
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1048 Reads

A couple of weeks ago there was a school of thought that the NRL top eight had pretty much been decided and that those teams currently in the top half of the table were simply fighting it out for position.

I don’t necessarily agree with that – over the past few seasons there’s been a bolter that’s hit form at the business end of the season to come into late contention.

At this stage of the season in 2009 the Eels were outside the eight and on the back of Jarryd Hayne’s brilliant run made it not only into the playoffs but to the decider itself. Ditto the Warriors last year.

A lot has changed over the past month and after their loss to the Bulldogs on Friday night and the Warriors beating the Titans the Tigers are now out of the eight.

The Tigers beat the Sharks by a point in round one, but other than that the only top eight sides (as at the start of Round 18) they’ve beaten have been the Cowboys (in Sydney) and the Storm minus their ‘big three’ Origin players.

They’ve conceded greater than 30 points in six of their 16 games this season and over the past three weeks have scored more than twenty but lost all three games to the Roosters, Knights and Bulldogs. They’re conceding a tick over 21 points a game.

So while it’s clear that their defence hasn’t been at its’ best this year, has their attack been much better? Again, they’re averaging just over 21 points which I guess ordinarily you’d be happy enough with if your defence was firing.

The Tigers have been regarded as one of the best attacking teams in the competition but they’ve only scored 30 points three times this season – against the Panthers, Eels and Raiders.

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Much has been made of the ‘maturity’ of Benji Marshall so far this season in guiding his team around the park but this has inevitably come at the cost of his individual attacking flair.

On Friday night they came up against a Bulldogs side that was very flat and error prone in the first half. While the Tigers weren’t a whole heap better they had enough ball, territory and opportunities to go to a big lead at half time. They went in 10-4 up.

After a Des Hasler spray the Dogs came out and put points on quickly. If there was an encouraging sign for the Tigers it was that they only had two opportunities in the second half and put tries on both times.

There’s plenty of excuses for the Tigers. The off season dramas of Tim Moltzen and Robert Lui were obviously destabilising as was the summer swap of Andrew Fifita and Bryce Gibbs for Adam Blair.

Wests’ best forward Gareth Ellis has barely been sighted this season and Robbie Farah has missed a lot of footy due to injury, representative commitments and the tragic passing of his mother.

With streaks so far this season of five losses followed by seven wins and then another three consecutive losses the Tiges are clearly a mojo team. The big question will be how quickly they can turn the momentum around.

They clearly have a weakness around the middle of the ruck at the moment and you feel they are maybe one quality front rower short.

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Tim Sheens doesn’t seem convinced about his best combination in the three quarters with constant shuffling of Chris Lawrence, Blake Ayshford, Joel Reddy and his various wingers.

Some of this has been brought about by injury and definitely contributed to by the lack of stability in the six and seven.

Sheens still doesn’t seem to have decided who is the best halves partner for Marshall with Humble, Moltzen, Lawrence and Sironen all getting opportunities.

With Masada Iosefa in good form off the bench since his mid-season signing I can see Robbie Farah spending a bit more time at first receiver and Benji getting a bit wider and not having quite so much pressure to direct the team around the park on his own for the full 80 minutes.

My feel is that the Tigers, with Farah’s return, have too much class to be down for too long. Sheens will be trying to time a run of wins into the finals to put them into the eight and in contention.

Whether or not the deficiencies in their team can lead to a deep run in the semis will be the next question…

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