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Consistency, Consistency, Consistency - This is what the Tigers need for the 2010 season if they are to return to the finals for the first time since their premiership victory in 2005.
The Tigers on their day are one of - if not the - most exciting team in the competition. Their core nucleus of players in Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall, along with notorious speedster Chris Lawrence and the tank Taniela Tuiaki all create havoc for opposition teams. Unfortunately either due to injury or form slumps the Tigers have not been able to create a stable and consistent style of football that puts them in contention for the finals every season.
2009 is a prime example of this scenario. After a steady start to the season with new signings such as British import Gareth Ellis firing on all cylinders the Tigers had a major capitulation midway through the season, in which they lost five games in a row. However, at the back end of the season their fans were treated to the team they deserved every week when the Tigers embarked on a 6 match winning streak. This fantastic vein of form amazingly kept the Tigers in finals contention until a memorable game against the Eels in Round 24 sealed their fate and ruined a potential return to the finals.
The 2010 season is all about business for the Tigers. They have recruited very astutely and released some deadwood from their roster. They have also secured the services of experienced coach Steve Folkes as the Strength and Conditioning coach meaning greater input at the coaching level. In the back office, CEO Stephen Humphries has been instrumental in the off-season putting in place the right structures for the team to succeed both on and off the field in the 2010 season. Most importantly though is that the Tigers have addressed some major deficiencies in their line up with quality signings who will make an instant impact to their team in the 2010 season.
For the 2010 version of the Wests Tigers to be successful they need to build on the foundation set throughout the late stages of the 2009 season. The Tigers need to ensure that they remain strong and consistent throughout the season and not allow mental lapses midway through the year halter their progress. 2010 must highlight the Tigers attitude, being mentally strong and not allowing the close games to get away as they have done in the past.
The Tigers success this year will ultimately fall on the backs of Robbie Farah and Benji Marshall and how they utilise the talent around them. With exciting new signings Lote Tuqiri and Jason Cayless, the return of Liam Fulton and the infusion of great young talent like Blake Ayshford, Tim Moltzen, Robert Lui, Willie Mataka and the Shirnack brothers, the Tigers have ensured that they have quality troops from the top 17 and all the way through the squad, better equipping them for the inevitable injury issues. For the first time in a long time the Tigers are a lot more balanced. They have a quality forward pack who are not only mobile but can also bend the defensive line back along with the fact their quality backline possesses the brutal combination of speed, size and athleticism with Tuiaki, Lawrence and Tuqiri the cornerstones.
2010 is the Chinese year of the Tiger, will it also be the NRL year of the Tiger?
Signings Gains: Tame Tupou (Bradford, ESL), Junior Moors, Geoff Daniela (Panthers), Mitch Brown (Sharks), Arana Taumata (Storm), Liam Fulton (Huddersfield, ESL), Mark Flanagan (Wigan, ESL), Jason Cayless (St Helens, ESL), Daniel Fitzhenry (Hull KR, ESL), Lote Tuqiri (Rugby Union) Losses: John Morris, Dean Collis (Sharks), Peni Tagive (Dragons), Dene Halatau, Corey Payne (Bulldogs), Shannon Gallant (Cowboys), Daine Laurie (Panthers); Danny Galea (Raiders), Rocky Trimarchi (released), John Skandalis (retired)
Predicted best lineup 1. Tim Moltzen 2. Taniela Tuiaki 3. Blake Ayshford 4. Chris Lawrence 5. Lote Tuqiri 6. Benji Marshall 7. Robert Lui 8. Jason Cayless 9. Robbie Farah (c) 10. Keith Galloway 11. Gareth Ellis 12. Chris Heighington 13. Liam Fulton Interchange: 14. Todd Payten 15. Bryce Gibbs 16. Junior Moors 17. Mark Flanagan
Player to Watch: Lote Tuqiri There is a lot to like about Lote Tuqiri. He has absolutely phenomenal size coupled with a great burst of speed and has demonstrated in both Rugby League and his stint with Rugby Union his ability to leap. He is the quintessential NRL winger and every coaches dream in this environment of scoring tries of kicks. While many league fans remember Tuqiri at his best for Brisbane, he has spend a considerable amount of time away from the game and his transition back to the NRL will be scrutinised every step of the way. Does he have the ability to be successful again in the NRL? Absolutely. But there are many question marks over Lote and his ability to play at this pace again after playing the slower game of Union for many seasons. I hope he is successful because it would be fantastic for the game and the Tigers if he is.
Rookie to Watch: Robert Lui Young gun Robert Lui burst on the scene at the back end of 2009 and demonstrated great ability with fantastic footwork and good short kicking game. While this form was exciting for Tigers fans, there were many things in which Lui needed to work on in the off-season. The Tigers have needed a quality first grade halfback since Scott Prince left in 2007 for the Gold Coast Titans. Robert Lui has demonstrated this off-season that he can be that halfback. At only the tender age of 19 the Tigers have shown a massive amount of faith in Lui, re-signing him for two years recently and also publically stating he will be the starting halfback in Round 1 vs Manly this season. Lui demonstrated in the trials that he has improved his game immensely. He was able to read the play a lot quicker, along with demonstrating fantastic vision and managing his team for the entire game which is vital for all first grade halfbacks. He has all the tools to make a quality First Grade halfback in the NRL. He has speed, athleticism, a strong work ethic, a good head on his shoulders, an ability to lead and most importantly a game-breaking five-eight to distribute the ball too in Benji Marshall and a quality hooker delivering the ball to him in Robbie Farah. His ability to work with these vital cogs will ultimately prove whether Lui can deliver on the hype.
Current injuries Taniela Tuiaki still has problems with his ankle and may not be seen for a month or two at the start of the season. Benji Marshall pulled up with injury during the trials but is expected to start in Round 1 against Manly.
2010 Season Schedule R1 v Sea Eagles (H, SFS) R2 v Roosters (A, SFS) R3 v Eels (H, SFS) R4 v Raiders (A) R5 v Cowboys (A) R6 v Bulldogs (H, SFS) R7 v Panthers (A) R8 v Roosters (H, C'town) R9 Bye R10 v Rabbitohs (H, SCG) R11 v Knights (A) R12 v Warriors (H, LCO) R13 v Bulldogs (A) R14 Bye R15 v Raiders (H, C'town) R16 v Dragons (A) R17 v Broncos (A) R18 v Titans (H, C'town) R19 v Cowboys (H, LCO) R20 v Sea Eagles (A, Gosford) R21 v Sharks (H, LCO) R22 v Rabbitohs (A) R23 v Panthers (H, C'town) R24 v Eels (A) R25 v Storm (H, LCO) R26 v Titans (A)