2022 review: Wests Tigers

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Dismal decade finally delivers a wooden spoon

The complete and utterly disgraceful efforts by the Wests Tigers on and off the field over the previous years finally culminated in them in winning a well-deserved wooden spoon in the 2022 NRL season.

A clueless board constantly sacking coaches they hire and being too ignorant to realise what that ultimately says about them; the constant and continued signing of experienced players coming to the club on overs and not performing; the inability to work together as a cohesive unit; recruitment and retention and the overall everything of the club has been miserable for many years now, but at its worst in 2022.

The club began the year promoting its slogan "New Era" before going on to do everything they've always done - sack a coach, lose too many games, being defensively woeful, defending and hanging onto players they need to part ways with, bringing Tim Sheens back into the fold, making crazy decisions which are a bigger chance of failing than succeeding, a complete lack of direction or future planning and the continued practice of buying players that are available as opposed to buying players they need.

Yet too many people involved with the club, including many fans, are remarkably still basking in the dim flicker of the 2005 Premiership and/or the Tigers finals campaigns of 2010/11. But they are now over a decade ago. The Tigers are the only NRL side not to have played a single finals game in the last ten years. It is nothing short of remarkable that they have managed to avoid finishing last for this long.

Usually when teams hit rock bottom, a raft of immense and overdue changes take place, or are taking place which sees the club make a completely expected about turn and rise up the table. For the Tigers though this doesn't seem to be the case. They've sacked premiership winning coach and New Zealand national coach Michael Maguire because, reasons, and will have Tim Sheens doing something he's never done before (which isn't helpful for the worst team in the competition) - being the head coach in 2023, turn the club around AND teach someone who has never performed any senior coaching duties on how to be a successful NRL coach in 12 months.

Turning Point

June 5, 2021: yes - the 2022 turning point happened the year before.

It was the day the Tigers announced Tim Sheens had been appointed as Head of Football Performance. The Tigers had 5 wins and 8 losses in the 2021 season when this news was made. They won just 7 of 35 games after, sacked their world class coach, and won their first ever wooden spoon. The sacking of Maguire in Round 12 this year resulted in the Tigers losing 10 of their remaining 11 games for the year, the worst of which was a humiliating 72-6 loss to the Roosters. Two weeks later the Raiders scored 56 against them.

What Worked 

Nothing. Their attack was the worst in the NRL. Their defence was the second worst. They won 2 games less than the 15th placed Warriors. They suffered their worst ever defeat.

What didn't work

Luke Brooks: Coach Michael Maguire moved Brooks to five-eighth and found immediate success as the Tigers scored their first win of the year over Parramatta. The following week, Brooks at five-eighth kicked the match-winning field goal against Souths, to get the Tigers back-to-back one-point victories. That was it though. Brooks missed 7 games in the back half of the season.

Sacking Maguire: The Tigers coach may have been in his 4th season at the club, but the majority of his tenure he had several players locked in on big coin on multi-year deals prior to his arrival. 2022 was to be the year that he cleaned out the roster and began building what he wanted. The side went from bad to vastly worse after his departure, while huge sections of the fanbase were furious at the decision.


1Sat 7:35pmMar 12thHMelbourneL16-26CommBank10,02513th
2Sun 4:05pmMar 20thANewcastleL4-26McD. Jones23,21415th
3Fri 6:00pmMar 25thHWarriorsL12-16C'town7,18216th
4Thu 8:05pmMar 31stAGold CoastL6-8CBUS8,77416th
5Sun 4:05pmApr 10thACronullaL4-30Pointsbet11,50016th
6Mon 4:00pmApr 18thAParramattaW21-20CommBank28,33615th
7Sat 7:35pmApr 23rdHSouthsW23-22CommBank14,25113th
8Sun 4:05pmMay 1stASt Geo IllaL6-12WIN16,11013th
9Sat 3:00pmMay 7thAManlyL22-364 Pines17,38513th
10Sun 6:25pmMay 15thH NNorth QldL12-36Suncorp43,40115th
11Fri 6:00pmMay 20thHCanterburyW36-22Leichhardt15,12414th
12Sat 5:30pmMay 28thASouthsL18-44Accor13,58515th
14Sun 2:00pmJun 12thHManlyL4-30C'town10,23113th
15Sun 4:05pmJun 19thACanterburyL12-36CommBank14,80614th
16Sun 2:00pmJul 3rdAWarriorsL2-22Mt Smart26,00915th
17Sat 7:35pmJul 9thHParramattaL20-28Leichhardt13,21416th
18Sun 2:00pmJul 17thHPenrithL16-18CommBank11,46416th
19Sun 4:05pmJul 24thANorth QldL26-27QLD C.B.14,91016th
20Sat 7:35pmJul 30thABrisbaneW32-18Suncorp32,90915th
21Sun 4:05pmAug 7thHNewcastleL10-14C'town9,62115th
22Sat 5:30pmAug 13thH NCronullaL12-36Tamworth10,04816th
23Sat 7:35pmAug 20thASydneyL6-72SCG14,93916th
24Sun 2:00pmAug 28thHSt Geo IllaL22-24CommBank9,78916th
25Sun 4:05pmSep 4thHCanberraL10-56Leichhardt10,04116th

Best Player

Hard to go past Jackson Hastings for the maturity, selflessness, experience and leadership he produced in spades.

Starford To'a was also very impressive at the back, so too was Luke Garner, who played out of position for most of the year and was brilliant every week doing so.


Fonua Pole played 10 games in 2022 in the middle and proved to be more than ready to play at the NRL level. He covered front row and lock and ran strong every time he played. Another rookie big man was teenager Justin Matamua, who has good leg drive and endurance, capable of playing in the front and back row. Winger Junior Tupou had a reasonable start to his NRL career, starting on the wing in four games, scoring a try on debut.

2022 Player Stats

BROOKS, Luke2717213135--
BROWN, Fa'amanu27136--24--
DIAS, Austin248------
DOUEIHI, Adam2411222-52--
FREEBAIRN, Tom2752--8--
GARNER, Luke26205--20--
GILDART, Oliver2681--4--
HASTINGS, Jackson2616-10121--
KAUTOGA, Kitione201------
KEPAOA, Asu22113--121-
LAURIE, Daine23192--8--
LEILUA, Luciano26121--4--
LIDDLE, Jacob2510------
MADDEN, Jock221434-20--
MATAMUA, Justin192----1-
MAUMALO, Ken281912--481-
MIKAELE, Thomas246------
MUSGROVE, Zane26242--81-
NADEN, Brent26105--20-1
NOFOALUMA, David28128--32--
OFAHENGAUE, Joe26241--4--
PAUGA, Junior262------
PEACHEY, Tyrone31131--42-
POLE, Fonua2010------
ROBERTS, James296------
SEYFARTH, Alex2317------
SIMPKIN, Jake2010------
TAMOU, James33192--8-1
TO'A, Starford22213--12--
TUILAGI, Kelma2322------
TUPOU, Junior2042--8--
TWAL, Alex2613----1-
UTOIKAMANU, Stefano229------
33 players24.76246349235272

Looking Ahead

The Tigers were rumoured to be offloading halfback Luke Brooks all year, talk that grew louder after the signing of Jackson Hastings. Hastings proved to be one of the positive things the Tigers did, as he showed that he wasn't just a ball player, but a general in attack and a leader on the field.

So it was completely on brand when the Tigers released him in a swap deal for Knights prop David Klemmer in Novermber.

Another bright prospect in 2022 was back rower Luke Garner who spent much of the season performing admirably in the centres and was arguably the best outside back at the club in 2022. He and damaging back rower Luciano Leilua - who left for new club the Cowboys 6 month early - will also both be at new homes in 2023. The acquisition of Isaiah Papali'I is a very good pick up and replaces one of those 2 departures.

Premiership winning hooker Api Koroisau will also be joining the club, providing some much needed direction and spark from dummy half.

2023's Best 17

At time of writing - 23 November 2022

1 - Daine Laurie
2 - David Nofoaluma
3 - Brent Naden
4 - Starford Toa
5 - Ken Maumalo
6 - Luke Brooks
7 - Adam Doueihi
8 - Stefano Utoikamanu
9 - Api Koroisau
10 - Alex Twal
11 - Isaiah Papali'i
12 - Shawn Blore
13 - Joe Ofahengaue

14 - David Klemmer
15 - Fonua Pole
16 - Alex Seyfarth
17 - Fa'amanu Brown

Statistics: Rugby League Project