2010 in review - Wests Tigers (3rd and Preliminary Finalists)
At the start of 2010 the Tigers again had a promising line up, but were still regarded as long shots based on their poor showing in every season since winning their maiden title back in 2005.
The Tigers were again quiet in the signings department during the off-season and by the start of the 2010 season, depth again in the backs looked to be a burgeoning issue, especially in the halves, where the Tigers have struggled ever since the departure of Scott Prince.
However, their attack got them off to a good start before a shaky yet successful run in the middle of the season kept them at the business end of the ladder and secured them their second finals campaign.
An epic battle against the Roosters, an inspiring win with an injury ravaged side against a highly fancied Raiders outfit saw them reach the Grand Final qualifier, however they went down to eventual premiers the Dragons in another hard fought battle.
The Tigers performance in 2010 was not surprising, but somehow also not expected. Everyone knew they were a much better side than their performances sometimes showed and in 2010 they finally showed just that.
In 2010, it was the Tigers forwards who were the big performers. Often criticised in the past for being too small and too soft, the Tigers pack lifted for 2010. Most notably Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington and Bryce Gibbs all stepped up another notch, taking their game to newer heights.
Robbie Farah was also again a stand out player and led his troops brilliantly all year, earning another Test Jumper in the 4 Nations.
Young centre Chris Lawrence was also in great form for the entirety of the season which saw him make his debut test appearance in the 4 Nations this year. Blake Ayshford finally showed how brilliant he really can near the end of the season and proved to be a more than capable replacement for Dean Collis, who departed the club at the end of 2009.
Benji Marshall had one of his more consistent seasons yet and started to show glimpses of maturity and experience hardly ever seen before. His form especially in the second half of the season was devastating, which he continued into the 4 Nations for the victorious Kiwi's. So good has Marshall been this year he has become a front runner for the Golden Boot award.
Wests Tigers have always been very good at blooding their own local juniors. In 2010 Andrew Fifita made his debut and ended up with 22 first grade games in his first season. Ben Murdoch-Masila made his debut in the finals and looks to be a regular on the bench for 2011. Both these two along with Simon Dwyer who made his debut last season, and Jason Shirnack are the new batch of Tigers forwards coming through.
The Tigers had reasonably well performing players all across the park in 2010; however a few players suffered more heavily from poor form than others. Most notably was Beau Ryan, who started the season brilliantly at fullback, but his form gradually went downhill over the rest of the season.
Robert Lui was another who would have more quiet games than great ones. He showed glimpses of the brilliance that the coach and players have been talking about all year, but it was too few and far between.
2011 appears to be a season to grow on their stellar 2010 efforts. There appears to be little to no change to the first grade squad that was so successful in 2010. There are no major new signings on the horizons, however there isn't really much more that the Tigers squad needs as they have strength in their backs, halves and forwards and some good forward depth. The Tigers could prove to be in the top 6 again for 2011.
2011 best lineup
1. Wade McKinnon 2. Lote Tuqiri 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Taniela Tuiaki 6. Benji Marshall 7. Tim Moltzen 8. Bryce Gibbs 9. Robbie Farah 10. Keith Galloway 11. Gareth Ellis 12. Chris Heighington 13. Liam Fulton
Interchange: 14. Simon Dwyer 15. Andrew Fifita 16. Ben Murdoch-Masila 17. Mitch Brown
2010 vital stats
Finished: 3rd and preliminary finalists
Played: 24 matches (2 byes)
Won: 15 matches
Lost: 9 matches
Points for: 537 points
Points against: 503 points
Points differential: +34
Top pointscorer: Benji Marshall (five-eighth) - 203 points
Top tryscorer: Lote Tuqiri (winger) - 18 tries
Club player of the year
Gareth Ellis (second row)