The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
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In the space of just 18 months the Tigers went from being premiership favourites to narrowly avoiding the wooden spoon. Since 2012, the club has endured its most turbulent days in the last decade. It eventually lead to a swag of prominent first grade players leaving the club, the head coach getting sacked and the star player for so long, Benji Marshall, walking away from the club after salary negotiations broke down. But, much like in 2004, amidst all of this drama and chaos, a batch of exciting and brilliant juniors has made their way into the top grade.
2014 isn’t shaping to be a year that the Tigers will push for premiership honours, but it will be one where they plan to gain some consistency and form some solid combinations amongst the youngsters to secure the clubs success over the coming years.
Where they can win
Out wide. Boy do the Tigers have some firepower in the backline. James Tedesco is finally injury free and is looking faster than ever. Chris Lawrence is also free of his many niggling injuries and has shed some bulk too, so he will also be back close to his blistering speedy self. Throw in the exciting Tim Simona, the all-round power, skill and speed of David Nofoaluma, the exhilarating pace of Marika Koroibete, with the experience of Pat Richards and Keith Lulia and you can see that the Tigers backline is very impressive indeed. This coupled with the creative rookie Luke Brooks will see the Tigers playing exciting football once again.
Where they may struggle
In the middle. Up front. Anywhere there are forwards, the Tigers will struggle. While they have proven performers in Robbie Farah, Aaron Woods and Liam Fulton, there simply isn’t enough firepower, especially in the back row. Wests Tigers have recruited some decent toilers, but the club has been sorely lacking since Gareth Ellis departed and Adam Blair failed to live up to expectations.
Robbie Farah. Arguably the best attacking rake in the competition as well as being a stubborn and tireless defender, Farah will have more responsibility on his shoulders in 2014 than ever before. He no longer has Benji Marshall to help him organise attacking plays. However, if he can form a solid combination with Tedesco and young half Brooks, then Farah could also be in for one of his best seasons, which will be key to the Tigers success.
Rookies to watch
Luke Brooks is the one who will have all eyes on him. After just one game (where he was Man of the Match on debut) he immediately drew comparisons with Andrew Johns. Massive wraps. He’d be best to try and ignore that and become Luke Brooks, not the next Andrew Johns. He has the skills required to make it, great passing game, a good short and long kicking game, solid in defence, a good step and quick off the mark. He just needs to get comfortable directing the team around and he will be all but certain of a great year.
The big plays
Brooks will form a lethal combination with Curtis Sironen, James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma and Tim Simona. They will link up often and in many various ways which will ensure that the Tigers won’t become predictable. Throw in the off the cuff attacking prowess of Farah and the Wests Tigers could prove to be a hard unit to contain when they get the ball out of the middle.
1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Tim Simona 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Pat Richards 6. Braith Anasta 7. Luke Brooks 8. Andrew Woods 9. Robbie Farah (c) 10. Adam Blair 11. Liam Fulton 12. Cory Paterson 13. Curtis Sironen
Interchange: 14. Keith Galloway 15. Martin Taupau 16. Ava Seumanufagai 17. Ben Murdoch-Masila