Wests Tigers are heading for yet another disappointing finish in 2020. They’re currently sitting in 11th place and, if they can’t beat an out-of-form Manly next weekend, face the real prospect of not winning another game this year and finishing as low as 13th.
Their problems stem from a poor team roster, much of it inherited from previous coach Ivan Cleary, who hurriedly exited at the end of the 2018 season. Poor recruitment both before and after Cleary sees the club with some significant deadwood and salary cap challenges.
One of the positions that continues to be problematic for the Tigers is the key spine role of fullback. The way the game is played these days, not having a quality fullback is a recipe for failure, and though Wests’ spine problems run deeper than just fullback, let’s deal with one position at a time.
There is a simple solution.
Since the departure of James Tedesco at the end of 2017 the Tigers have failed to find a suitable replacement. Initially Tuimoala Lolohea was to fill the role but was soon replaced by Corey Thompson following his return from the Super League. Thompson performed reasonably well at the back, but he clearly didn’t meet the approval of coach Michael Maguire and departed for the Titans earlier this season. Moses Mbye has also been tried there occasionally with mixed results.
During the last off-season, as part of the Latrell Mitchell circus and eventual move to South Sydney, Wests announced the signing of South Sydney custodian Adam Doueihi as their new fullback.
Doueihi is a good utility player, particularly closer to the ruck, but has vailed to impress at the back, and he had a particularly poor game on the weekend against the Panthers. I doubt Maguire sees Doueihi as a long-term fullback option.
It seems these days that everyone wants to play fullback. Mitchell has made the switch at Souths and Nick Cotric could play at the back next year at the Dogs.
Over the last few weeks there have been rumours that Josh Addo-Carr wants out of Melbourne and may be looking for a fullback role at the Tigers. This may work, as Addo-Carr is a rare talent. However, it would be a risk for the Tigers and would presumably be an expensive experiment, as Addo-Carr would no doubt be looking for top dollar. Fullback money.
However, the solution to the Tigers’ fullback problem has been there right under their noses all along, playing on the right wing.
David Nofoaluma, now in his prime at age 26, has played nearly 130 games for the Tigers and has easily been one of their best performers for the last couple of years. Nofoaluma has pace and dazzling footwork, can bust tackles and is a strong defender.
He has similar attributes to James Tedesco and would be a far more dangerous player given the extra room the fullback position would offer.
Wests season is effectively over. A number of players are past their best and are fortunately moving on, while a few more should be encouraged to leave. Now is the opportunity for Maguire to experiment with some younger players and some different combinations in preparation for a hopefully more successful season in 2021.
The first change I would make is to move David Nofoaluma to fullback and see what he can do.