Thursday, 14 February 2013

Season Review - Wests Tigers (2012)

After much improved performances in 2010 and 2011, the Wests Tigers appeared to be maturing as a unit and playing much better and more consistent football, which lead to many pundits picking them as the pre-season favourites to win the premiership. And on paper, that didn’t seem like such a crazy notion.

But it didn’t take long for all that to change. After winning their first game, controversially in Golden Point against Cronulla, the Tigers lost 5 straight, turning in abysmal performances against the Dragons and the Raiders before going on a 7 game winning streak, which wasn’t as convincing as it appeared. It contained a 30-0 shut-out against Penrith, a 1 point win against Parramatta, in a game that saw Parramatta almost claim victory as they scored the majority of their points in the last 10 mins of the game. Another 1 point win against the struggling Titans at that time, a 2 point win against the inconsistent Warriors, and a hard fought 10-6 win against a Storm player without any of their big name players due to Origin commitments.

The Winning streak and the season ended there. The Tigers won 3 of the remaining 11 games, which saw them slip from fourth to tenth on the ladder and fall out of finals calculations completely and miserably.

Signings for 2012: Matt Bell (Penrith), Adam Blair (Melbourne), Ray Cashmere (Illawarra Cutters), Dane Chisholm (Melbourne), John Grant (Rugby Union), Jy Hitchcox (Melbourne), Tom Humble (Parramatta), Masada Iosefa (Penrith), Joel Reddy (Parramatta).
Losses for 2012: Mitch Brown (Canterbury – mid season), Geoff Daniela (Penrith), Simon Dwyer (deregistered due to injury), Andrew Fifita (Cronulla), Mark Flanagan (St.Helens), Bryce Gibbs (Cronulla), Robert Lui (North Queensland), Wade McKinnon (Hull FC), Todd Payten (retired)

Turning Point: The Tigers season was wildly inconsistent and rarely ever did their performances reach the lofty heights of the previous two seasons, but after winning 7 straight games and getting into the top 4, the turning point, very sadly and suddenly came with the passing of Robbie Farah’s mother Sonia just hours before the Round 15 game against the lowly Roosters. The Tigers players were all distraught but played on, coming back late in the match, but by then the game was gone, and the Roosters won 42-28. This was the first of 8 losses in the remaining 11 games for the club, whose performances were either abysmal or amazing.

The Good: The Tigers young players who were essentially forced into first grade through injuries and poor team selections was essentially the greatest thing for the club in 2012. Also the second half against Parramatta in Round 22 and the Tigers game against a woeful Raiders side in Round 13 were also good. But possibly one of their best performances was against Canterbury in Round 24 where the Tigers were very unlucky to not have won the game.

The Bad: Team selections killed the Tigers massively in 2012. They lost halfback Robert Lui in the pre-season and trained back up half, Tim Moltzen, at halfback during the off-season. In Round 1, rookie fullback James Tedesco suffered a season ending knee injury. The only trained halfback at the club was shifted to fullback in Round 4, and so began the merry-go-round of halves combinations for the Tigers. Over the year, the Tigers had endured 9 different halves combinations. The under-performance of marquee players Adam Blair, Benji Marshall, Tim Moltzen, Lote Tuqiri and Chris Lawrence were mostly all due to these position changes and game plan restructures.

Best Players: Aaron Woods was by far the best Tigers player. The 21 year old prop in just his second season in the NRL was picked as 18th man in the NSW Origin side. He had a stellar season. Also, Liam Fulton’s efforts during the year, especially in defence were almost Herculean at times. Robbie Farah, despite the tragic loss of his mother had a great season which saw regain his place in the NSW Origin side and going very close to player of the series. In the backs, Beau Ryan continued improving on his previous seasons performances.

Disappointing Players: Adam Blair had a lot to prove after the hostility among fans about his arrival, essentially at the loss of club favourite Bryce Gibbs. Undoubtedly Blair is a world class quality player, but at the Tigers he just looked lost and was rarely committed. Either he was confused by the coaching or he just wasn’t putting in enough effort. Centres Lawrence and Ayshford were both poor on the back of previous season’s performances, and this may have been largely due to the unsettled halves. Moltzen took a long time to gain any confidence at fullback.

Rookies: The Tigers had 4 rookies make their debut in 2012. James Tedesco (Round 1) a very talented fullback who suffered a season ending knee injury in his debut. Pat Politoni (Round 11) a speedy hooker who only played once off the bench. Curtis Sironen (Round 12) a five-eighth who runs just like his old man, Paul Sironen. Looked very good but a shoulder injury in Round 20 ended his season. Marika Koroibete (Round 21) had an immediate impact when he entered first grade. Many were calling and demanding he be in the first grade squad much sooner in the year. Koroibete’s second half against Parramatta was devastating. In his second game, he equalled the Wests Tigers record for most tries by a player in a game with 4. Will bring great excitement to the club in 2013.

Chances in 2013: With the turmoil within the club during 2012 and the current off-season, the Tigers will be looking at rebuilding and restructuring in 2013. They have lost more key players in Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan and Blake Ayshford was reported to have been allowed to speak with other clubs. Coach Tim Sheens’ tenure at the club came to an ugly demise and it appears he will be replaced by Mick Potter. Tigers will be looking to make the finals and still have a side capable of doing such, but it won’t be easy.

2013 Gains: Braith Anasta (Roosters), Eddy Pettybourne (Souths), Bodene Thompson (Titans)
2013 Losses: Gareth Ellis (Hull FC), Chris Heighington (Cronulla), Beau Ryan (Cronulla)

2013 Best Line-up:
1 – James Tedesco 2 – Marika Koroibete 3 – Blake Ayshford 4 – Chris Lawrence 5 – Lote Tuqiri 6 – Benji Marshall 7 – Tim Moltzen 8 – Aaron Woods 9 – Robbie Farah (c) 10 – Keith Galloway 11 – Adam Blair 12 – Liam Fulton 13 – Braith Anasta
Interchange: 14 – Ben Murdoch-Masila 15 – Eddy Pettybourne 16 – Bodene Thompson 17 – Matt Utai
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