10th Place – Wests Tigers
Home Grounds: The Wests Tigers adopting practically every Rugby League ground in the country helped them when it came to wins away from home, ending up as one of the 5 best sides away from home. The only problem is trying to determine which games were actually home or away games. The Tigers continue to use several home grounds and this has taken away any home ground advantage that they would get.
Future Superstars: The Tigers are always unveiling some new awesome prospects every year, and 2008 was no different. The massively built youngster Peni Tagive looks to form a forbidable wing partnership with Taniela Tuiaki. Young Tim Moltzen showed versatility at a young age in key positions in the halves and in the backline. But the biggest newcomer was Daine Laurie. With his dreadlocked hair, his fearless running at the line at tremendous speed and his enthusiasm were something Wests Tigers fans have been dying to see for years. He played 10 games all at the end of the season, and has already built up a massive cult following.
Tim Sheens: Tim warned his players that they’ll be getting a tap on the shoulder if their performances don’t lift. The comment is justifiable enough, however some of the players he may have been referring to were playing out of position because of Sheens’ team selections. All year Sheens toyed with the most important positions on the field once again, the halves. His reluctance to play two specialist halves has seen the team lose direction and unable to be consistent. Sheens needs to settle on a halves combination and stick with it for the entirety of 2009, otherwise the Tigers face another woefully inconsistent season.
The #1, #6, #9: In 2008, Hodgson, Marshall and Farah played more games together than in the previous season and they played key roles in every single victory by the Tigers. Marshall’s stellar form and increasing confidence after the World Cup win, and a full off season injury free bodes well for him and the Tigers in 2009. Farah has had niggling back injuries for the previous two seasons, hopefully he can overcome them for 2009. He needs to play at Hooker all season as well. The smaller Tigers forwards are a better performing pack when he is leading them around the park. In 2009, Brett Hodgson will not be around, leaving huge shoes to fill and more playmaking responsibility on Marshall’s shoulders.
The second half of the season: Again the Tigers went into hibernation after round 12, winning just 4 games in the run home to the finals, after being in a good position on the ladder. They had 2 good victories near the end of the season against the Bulldogs (56-4 at ANZ) and the Dragons (18-10 at Wollongong) before losing their next three and letting in 120 points against Parramatta, Manly and Cronulla. The Tigers failed to record three straight wins together throughout the season.
The Best: In such an inconsistent season, one player stood head and shoulders above everyone else at the Tigers, Chris Heighington. He finally showed everyone the potential which had been known but hardly seen. And it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The Tigers forwards were cruelled by injuries and poor form, but Heighington continued to work harder and harder every week. He was exceptionally unlucky to miss out on a NSW jumper and possibly even a spot in the World Cup squad. Hodgson had yet another stellar season, his consistency and toughness was unmatched all year long. Chris Lawrence also stepped up and took on more responsibility. He keeps getting better every year. Keith Galloway had by far his best season and looks to be confident with his ability for the first time.
The Worst: The Tigers had a number of players being brought in and out of the team regularly along with having key players playing out of position, which hampered any cohesion which could have helped win the close games. Therefore Tim Sheens would get the worst gong here. As far as the players go, Shannon McDonnell had been praised as being lightning fast, yet everytime he got into open space he was easily run down. Ben Te’o, after a promising debut year, went missing, particularly when he was trying to negotiate his contract. Corey Payne proved to be a major disappointment thus far, Dean Collis had another disappointing injury plagued season.
Gains: Gareth Ellis (Leeds) Josh Lewis (Gold Coast)
Losses: Brett Hodgson (Huddersfield) Ben Te’o (Brisbane) Ryan O’Hara (released) Stuart Flanagan (Canberra) Bronson Harrison (Canberra) Tevita Metuisela (Rugby Union)
Best Win of the Year: The 28-12 win over Gold Coast in the last game of the year. Both teams were out of the finals and the match would make no difference to either sides position on the ladder, but the Tigers turned up and played some spirited football. Benji Marshall played his best game since 2005 and has since followed it up with a stellar World Cup.
Worst Loss of the Year: Both times the Tigers played Parramatta. The Eels are the Tigers hoodoo team. The Tigers came into both games after wins the previous week away from home, but capitulated horribly on both occasions. On both occasions the Eels racked up over 40 points.
2009 Headline: “Tigers name their 10th halfback of the year for their Round 10 clash”
****This article appeared on www.leagueunlimited.com****