Wests Tigers 2018 season preview and prediction

Eddie Otto Roar Guru

By Eddie Otto, Eddie Otto is a Roar Guru

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31 Have your say

    In recent seasons the Wests Tigers have had problems all the way from the front office to the backline. Unfortunately for the Tigers’ faithful, it doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon.

    Last season – 14th
    Seven wins, 17 losses, 413 points scored, 571 points against

    Last five seasons
    15th, 13th, 15th, 9th, 14th

    2017 review
    2017 was over before it began for the Tigers, with coach Jason Taylor being sacked after three rounds, and three of the club’s biggest players in James Tedesco, Mitchell Moses and Aaron Woods all taking up contract offers elsewhere. In Week 6, Ivan Cleary walked into what was a circus.

    It was an awful season for the Tigers really, when you consider they finished 2016 in ninth place, and had a number of younger players expected to take the team to the next level.

    Once the turmoil died down, the team actually played pretty well in the back half of the year under Ivan Cleary, without getting many results to show for it.

    However, that still can’t mask the fact it was a sixth straight season outside the finals, at a time when things were expected to be looking up.

    2018 gains
    Mahe Fonua (Hull – 2019), Tyson Gamble (Redcliffe – 2019), Pita Godinet (Sea Eagles), Benji Marshall (Broncos – 2018), Ben Matulino (Warriors – 2020), Chris McQueen (Titans – 2020), Taane Milne (Dragons – 2019), Russell Packer (Dragons – 2021), Josh Reynolds (Canterbury – 2021), Robbie Rochow (Storm – 2019), Corey Thompson (Widnes – 2019),

    2018 losses
    Matt Ballin (retired), Justin Hunt (retired), Jamal Idris (retired), Jordan Rankin (Huddersfield), Ava Seumanufagai (Sharks), James Tedesco (Roosters), Aaron Woods (Bulldogs), Joel Edwards, Jack Littlejohn, Kyle Lovett (Leigh Centurions), Moses Suli (Bulldogs).

    The Tigers virtually have a new side in 2018 with plenty of salary cap space freed up by the departures of Tedesco, Moses and Woods.

    They have taken an interesting path with the signings of a number of older/experienced type players that were perhaps in need of a fresh start. Josh Reynolds was the Tigers’ biggest signing and will be expected to form a stable partnership with Luke Brooks.

    The Tigers have overpaid for Reynolds who is clearly a risk on a four-year deal given his recent spate of calf and hamstring injuries. However he is the sort of inspirational and popular figure the club perhaps needed to try and build a new culture.

    Reynolds, Chris McQueen and Ben Matalino all played in struggling sides last season and all three experienced some injuries and average form.

    I really like the signing of Russell Packer as he is a reformed character and will add much-needed aggression to the forward pack. The club won’t miss Woods greatly as he was a poor leader, and they have enough depth in their forward pack in 2018. However, they will clearly miss Tedesco who is a game breaker and a dynamic fullback, and is impossible to replace.

    Tedesco-Origin

    James Tedesco (AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts)

    Head coach – Ivan Cleary
    Last season Cleary was picking up the pieces really. He could hardly be judged either way on what the side produced. Now he has made a number of signings and reshaped the roster somewhat how he wanted, so fans will be expecting things to be on the up.

    The good thing about Cleary is he has achieved similar mass rebuilding jobs at both the Warriors and Panthers.

    He is used to working from the ground up and, at a club like the Tigers, that’s the only way at the moment given they have missed the finals the past six seasons. I don’t expect much pressure to be on Cleary this year. However, there is pressure on some of his recruits to deliver, and if they don’t, the Tigers will have an ageing roster with recruits that are perhaps past their best.

    Ivan Cleary NRL Rugby League Wests Tigers 2017

    Ivan Cleary (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Most important player – Luke Brooks
    It’s time for Brooks to step up, having played virtually four full seasons in the NRL. He would be the first to admit he has fallen a long way below expectations the past few years, after some outstanding performances in his debut season.

    Brooks will control the team this season, with Reynolds acting as a roving five eighth, and he needs to fire if the Tigers are any shot of doing something.

    If he’s quiet Brooks may struggle to retain his place at halfback, with club legend Benji Marshall lurking in the shadows, and rumours Nathan Cleary would like to play under his father when off contract in 2020.

    Luke Brooks passes the ball

    (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

    Best 17
    1. Tui Lolohea 2. Corey Thompson 3. Esan Masters 4. Thane Milne 5. David Nofoaluma 6. Josh Reynolds 7. Luke Brooks 8. Russell Packer 9. Matt McIlwrick 10. Ben Matulino 11. Elijah Taylor 12. Chris Lawrence 13. Matthew Eisenhuth
    14. Chris McQueen 15. Alex Twal 16. Sauaso Sue 17. Josh Aloiai

    2018 verdict – 15th
    I love my Tigers, but it’s really hard to see them turning it around this season, given they lost three of their best players in the off-season.

    While they have added depth to their roster, their top 17 looks to be close to the weakest in the competition in terms of quality in key positions and strike power.

    Tui Lolohea is not a proven fullback and it’s impossible to replace someone of the quality of James Tedesco, while their halves in Brooks and Reynolds will need to build a combination, and their main hooker Jacob Liddle is only very young and coming off shoulder surgery.

    Their forward pack can likely compete quite well, the likes of Alex Twal, Matt Eisenhuth and Josh Aloiai could really surprise teams with their size and strength.

    However, their backline lacks class, speed, and anyone who can really turn a game. In key positions, only Reynolds is an established player, and Brooks has never lived up to the hype.

    Expect a season of less drama for the Tigers, and a physical and competitive team, but one lacking the strike power to really worry many sides. That said, I’m prepared to give Cleary a couple of seasons to turn things around for a club that has struggled mightily of late.

    They will avoid the spoon, but won’t win more than seven or eight games.

    Eddie’s ladder
    15th: Wests Tigers
    16th: New Zealand Warriors

    Rebuild announcement

    Have Your Say



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    The Crowd Says (31)

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 6:41am
      Greg Ambrose said | February 23rd 2018 @ 6:41am | ! Report

      I had a good look at Josh Reynolds last year and while I admire greatly his will to win and spark his ability to set up back line plays appears to be almost non existent. He is at his best when he times his involvement in the game around broken play and he is outstanding at turning this into a try scoring chance.

      I don’t believe there is a conventional position on the field which suits him and I’d be looking at him as a roving type pest who hovers about but isn’t asked to orchestrate back lines.

      • Roar Guru

        February 23rd 2018 @ 8:04am
        The Barry said | February 23rd 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

        Hey Greg – I’m already missing Josh.

        Don’t judge him too harshly on last year. The Dogs structure was awful.

        I agree with your assessment about his broken play but he’s also a good link man playing off the back of his forwards. He’s good at getting to the outside of his defender, drawing the next player in and creating a bit of space for his outside men, but he needs thinks working inside him otherwise he tends to crab across and cramp his outside men for room.

        • February 23rd 2018 @ 10:41am
          Greg Ambrose said | February 23rd 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          Last year would have been hard for any 5/8 at the Dogs for sure. I would rate Reynolds number one in the game for a stat that doesn’t exist but is along the lines of seeing and acting on chances to attack in broken play that others don’t see. At times nothing is happening but Reynolds was holding back and staying deep ready to strike because he could read the play.

          Thank god Haslers style didn’t work because nobody would be watching if that was the way to win.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 5:57pm
        Eddie Otto said | February 23rd 2018 @ 5:57pm | ! Report

        The Barry I am hoping Cleary plays him as a roving type player. I think he will bring plenty to the club int arms of spirit and culture. However his style of play can be a bit haphazard. He is certainly not an 800k type player which is what the club has paid. Anyway beggars can’t be choosers.

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 6:58am
      peeko said | February 23rd 2018 @ 6:58am | ! Report

      Strange recruitment – they seem to have a very deep squad with players with some NRL experience but would struggle to make most other teams starting sides
      I don’t know why everyone thinks Milne will make the starting team when he was a fringe player at the dragons

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 11:22am
        Fred said | February 23rd 2018 @ 11:22am | ! Report

        Great recruitment. We’ve gone for a champion team instead of a team with a couple of champions.

        I’m on the bus. The Tigers are guaranteed premiers this year. In Ivan We Trust!

        • February 23rd 2018 @ 3:57pm
          Richard Powell said | February 23rd 2018 @ 3:57pm | ! Report

          Yeah. Why not? Ivan has the makings of a champion team in the making, and we all know about champion teams and what they do to a team of champions. By the time Nathan comes on board in 2020 they should come close to another premiership. (I’d love to get a bet on that Nathan will be a West Tiger in 2020. It’s 100 to 1 ON, that he won’t be a Panther. The only other fly on the wall would be Nick Politis after Cronk hangs up his boots after 2019.)

    • Roar Guru

      February 23rd 2018 @ 7:10am
      The Barry said | February 23rd 2018 @ 7:10am | ! Report

      Are we confusing the feel good story of Packer’s redemption story with an over estimation of his ability?

      I really like the signing of Russell Packer as I think he is a reformed character and will add much needed aggression to the forward pack

      In 2017 Packer played 19 games and averaged 43.2 minutes per game. He made an average of 9.3 runs per game, placing him 179th in the comp. He made 86 metres per game, 168th. He made 402 tackles and missed 33 (92.4%). He made 6 offloads, 9 tackle busts, 2 line breaks, 1 try, 1 try assist. Packer made 8 errors and gave away 7 penalties.

      I don’t think the Tigers will miss Woods greatly

      Woods played 22 games and averaged 57.9 minutes. He made an average of 15.4 runs (14th) and 145 metres (17th). He made 542 tackles and missed 27 (95.3%). Woods made 45 offloads, 21 tackle busts, 2 line breaks, 2 tries, 1 try assist. Woods made 8 errors and gave away 11 penalties.

      So Woods makes 9.4 metres per run, Packer 9.2 metres. Woods makes 0.27 runs every minute he’s on the field, Packer 0.22.

      So despite Packer playing 74.6% of Packers minutes, Woods makes more runs and metres per minute than Packer. Woods is a more effective tackler (based on % made). He makes far more offloads.

      Woods also played for NSW and Australia.

      I get that Packer players with “aggression” and Woods “doesn’t”. But heres the thing…for all Packer’s so called aggression he makes fewer metres per run, despite having to play fewer minutes and make less runs and he also busts less tackles. Surely these are the markers of the more aggressive player?

      I get stats don’t tell the full story but they’re an indicator of output. I’m sure there will be at least one response about the unsubstantiated, so called ‘tough metres’ that Packer has to make, while the middle of the field magically opens up for Woods to make ‘easy metres’.

      But I haven’t cherry picked stats here, I’ve laid out all of them out and the only area Packer beats Woods (funnily enough for the more aggressive player) is in penalties conceded.

      The other part to this is that Woods made 3,198 metres last year. The next best Tigers forward made 1,770 metres (55% of Woods). The third highest was way under half of Woods’ output. They’ve got to find players to play those minutes and get through that work.

      The suggestion that Woods to Packer is somehow an upgrade is laughable.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 8:38am
        Josh said | February 23rd 2018 @ 8:38am | ! Report

        I agree Packer for Woods isnt an uograde but that ignires the reality of salary cap. What the tigers did do was replace Woods and Seumanufagai with Packer and Matulino so when making a comparison you have to do ut as a 2 not a 1.

        • Roar Guru

          February 23rd 2018 @ 9:20am
          The Barry said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          I get the salary cap side but if you want to compare two props you don’t need to bring their front row partners into it.

          I was responding to the authors paragraph that said what a good signing Packer was and how Woods won’t be missed.

          • Roar Rookie

            February 23rd 2018 @ 11:45am
            JOHNY BULLDOG said | February 23rd 2018 @ 11:45am | ! Report

            Woods will only improve at the Doggies with more capable forwards by his side to assist.

        • February 23rd 2018 @ 10:46am
          Fred said | February 23rd 2018 @ 10:46am | ! Report

          Yep, Packerlino is better than Woods and a nobody

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 9:00am
        KenW said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:00am | ! Report

        It’s so strange that you’re talking up Woods TB? Almost like you find him more palatable this year than you have in the past… completely unexplained…

        Seriously though, it’s a fair point. The knock on Woods (anyone?) is that he is flattered by his stats but there’s no arguing that he makes a useful contribution to his team. Despite both being props they aren’t really direct swaps, Packer plays the hardhead role, straight up the middle – make ’em hurt just to tackle you style, where Woods gives longer minutes, effective play and is a workhorse.

        Ideally you’d have both style of players in your pack, and I agree it’s hard to see where the Tigers are going to replace Woods’ output.

        • Roar Guru

          February 23rd 2018 @ 9:16am
          The Barry said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:16am | ! Report

          Haha…in my defence I’ve been sticking up for Woods for a couple of seasons now… but yeah there may be a bit of extra passion there.

          I get the difference in playing style but surely that should be reflected in the stats somewhere? I’d say metres per run or tackle busts. If Packer runs so hard and Woods is such a marshmallow, why does Woods bust twice as many tackles?

        • Roar Guru

          February 23rd 2018 @ 9:20am
          Emcie said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:20am | ! Report

          I definitely think Wood’s benefits from his abilities being overstated in the media (as most players with “personality” do) but he’s not a bad player by any means

          • Roar Guru

            February 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am
            The Barry said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

            Possible but he also gets massively under rated by the public.

            “Packers great, Woods won’t be missed” is an example

          • Roar Guru

            February 23rd 2018 @ 9:41am
            Nat said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

            Woods does get a lot of flak because of his perceived “softness” but his stats are hard to ignore. I liken him to a ‘poor mans Petro’. You couldn’t meet a gentler giant and it’s hard to think of a time he raised his fists in anger but his meters, PC meters and offloads are noticed by those that matter. Petro, as part of th Broncos shone and I think the Dogs pack/team will be the better for him too.

            • February 23rd 2018 @ 11:19am
              Matt said | February 23rd 2018 @ 11:19am | ! Report

              Woods might make the metres but the player taking the ruck after him is severely hampered because of the slow play the ball. I started to do some numbers on it last year but got too frustrated watching the Tigers playing. They were awful to watch. TB have a look at how set the defensive line is after a Woods run. There is very little dummy half running after one of his hit ups as well. He stands in the tackle and makes post contact metres but it is a false stat because of the time taken to play the ball. Factor in that referee also has taken the defensive line back his 10 metres and Woods creeps two metres forward to play the ball and the defense is onto the attack even quicker.

              • Roar Pro

                February 23rd 2018 @ 9:11pm
                Mr Brown said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:11pm | ! Report

                100%. His slow play the balls are ignored by the experts.

            • February 23rd 2018 @ 11:38am
              Albo said | February 23rd 2018 @ 11:38am | ! Report

              Woods’ big positive is that he is strong with the ball into the tackle and has an offload that most other props in the game lack. If he has a few rovers backing him up at the Dogs this year, we may see some more 2nd phase play that has been missing for awhile at the Dogs.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 9:34am
        peeko said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:34am | ! Report

        you could argue that Woods was more of a lone hand at the togers and that Dragons shared the load amongst Vaughan, Packer, Sims and Leeson?

        • Roar Guru

          February 23rd 2018 @ 9:57am
          The Barry said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:57am | ! Report

          I think that’s definitely part of it but it begs the question that if Packer is so much tougher than Woods, playing fresher than Woods and sharing the load rather than being a lone hand, why is his contribution less in pretty much every stat, even on a per minute basis…?

    • Roar Rookie

      February 23rd 2018 @ 9:27am
      Joe said | February 23rd 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

      I think Cleary will make a difference to this team and they will be around 8-12. They looked pretty sharp in the trial against the Cowboys who had several of their big guns on deck. I know its just a trial but considering they’re a team that’s just been pulled together the combinations looked pretty good.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 12:00pm
        Fred said | February 23rd 2018 @ 12:00pm | ! Report

        They will be first. They are a whole fleet of nuclear stealth bombers flying under the radar.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 1:52pm
        Albo said | February 23rd 2018 @ 1:52pm | ! Report

        Cleary is not a miracle worker. Once he finds a handy “spine’ things might improve, but I can’t see that for 2018.

    • February 23rd 2018 @ 10:06am
      souvalis said | February 23rd 2018 @ 10:06am | ! Report

      Ben Matulino is far more skillful and industrious than Packer..Clearys best signing..

    • Roar Guru

      February 23rd 2018 @ 10:16am
      Nat said | February 23rd 2018 @ 10:16am | ! Report

      A reasonably fair piece considering they are your team Eddie. It must be hard to acknowledge a 15th place outcome through personal bias. I tend to agree with most but you’ll find Woods as big as loss as Tede, insofar as for al of Tede’s brilliance, nearly half of the big props meters came post contact then his offloads adds more meters down the park. To date, Packer (or most other big men for that matter, JT13/Gallen aside) has not met his standards. Reynolds is a competitor as is Lolohea. Brooks, I believe, is warming the seat for son to join father but you have Benji there to assist the halves as he did for the Broncos. Good luck to them but 15th is about right.

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