Wests Tigers Season Review 2012

Where did it all go wrong, Tim?

The alleged favourites for the 2012 season, this was a team whose on field display failed to live up to such expectations. Clearly, even considering the Wests Tigers as title favourites was a foolish starting point but, on paper at least, they did seem to have the depth and calibre to mount an assault on the title. In fairness, they should have too; a team that was agonizingly close to the Grand Final in 2011, all but sealing that spot until the late heroics of the Warriors bundled the Tigers out. 2012 was going to be their season it would seem.

Alas, no. The Tigers do have some excuses and certainly have some young talent that will help them in future campaigns, but their meek on-field performances for the majority of the season were frankly not good enough. Too often, the Tigers looked uncertain, made embarrassing mistakes (the must win game versus the Roosters in Round 25 was one of the worst performances of recent history that would have seen a schoolyard C team hang their heads in shame), and were rightly labelled ‘soft’ early in the season for brittle defence. Credit is due to the Tigers for overcoming the poor early season (1 win, 5 defeats) to play a conservative ‘grinding’ style to win games, muscle up in defence and to selectively inject themselves at the right moments in attack. These seven weeks of winning football indicated promise and the Tigers looked a serious threat if they maintained this style and executed the basics right. Alas no. Hit and miss games are to be expected, as are losses and injuries, but too many sideways and flashy periods of attack in which they tried to find the Tigers circa 2005  ‘attack from anywhere’ edict would repeatedly come unstuck. And those defensive lapses would haunt the Tigers – the worrying sight of the lowly Parramatta running through yawing gaps in the middle of the field in Round 21 when the Tigers had specifically proclaimed that a return to the grinding style would be employed to yield the needed winning results and save their season; on this occasion it was the Tigers ‘touch footy’ ability, and the unearthing of Marika Koroibete in particular, that furnished the win. Overall, this would happen too often throughout the season; an inability to stick to the ‘grind’, to the basics of completing sets, conservative attack balanced with selective flashy ‘touch style’ injections and remaining resolute in defence. Disappointingly for fans, the coach and the players, the Tigers showed that they could do this on occasions and offered some hope of at least getting to the finals but consistency (and injuries) blighted their season and potential.

The excuses: In fairness, the Tigers did have an appalling run of injuries to key players, at key times or for sustained periods that made the much needed and vaunted consistency highly problematic. I recall coach Tim Sheens in 2005 stating that his team’s success was partly due to few injuries and being able to continually field the same team – clearly this unraveled in 2012. Long term injuries to James Tedesco (season), Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington and Lote Tuqiri, as well as stints on the sideline for Chris Lawrence, Keith Galloway, Curtis Sironen and Robbie Farah (Origin duties and injury) amongst others, curtailed the continuity on the field that was required.

The other major ‘excuse’ was some poor refereeing that has effected Rugby League in general throughout 2012, with the diabolical nature of the obstruction call bordering on the ridiculous. Again, most teams have been the victim of some bizarre interpretation (or lack thereof). While maybe some other circumstances may have conspired against the result, it would seem that the Tigers should have won against the Bulldogs in Round 24 but for a poor interpretation of the rules that even some of the wisest minds/best players in league (Phil Gould, Ray Warren, Wally Lewis, Andrew Johns) thought was a clear obstruction and gaffe by the video referee (and subsequently was deemed to be by Referee’s boss Bill Harrigan). This obstruction was ruled a try, forced the Tigers to conjure up a rapid response and took the game to extra time.

This game underlined the frustration associated with the Tigers in 2012 – rising to the occasion to push the Minor Premiers in extra time (and arguably be denied the win by an appalling refereeing decision) but to then capitulate the very next week when their season is on the line against the lowly Sydney Roosters.

Where to from here? It is not Tim Sheen’s fault in my view and he is exactly the person required to keep this often inconsistent team on the same page – harnessing the individual brilliance but reining in and tempering the over flashy displays with a return to the grind. He seems to know how to blood the young talent well too and created a template for the attacking ‘Tigers’ football that worked well in the past. Although not always apparent this season, he generally manages Benji well and certainly has taken some players’ games to the next level – most notably Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods.

There are plenty of positives in personale too. Some players have certainly exceeded this year, Farah, Woods, Beau Ryan, Liam Fulton, and off the bench, Ben Murdoch-Masila. New rookies were discovered that can help the club build in the future and hopefully will be major stars in their own right: Marika Koroibete, Curtis Sironen and James Tedesco. Masada Iosefa was also a handy addition to the team during the season. Others were generally strong but hampered by time on the sidelines, the likes of Chris Lawrence, Keith Galloway, Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington. Too many, unfortunately, were far too inconsistent – the likes of Benji Marshall being brilliant on occasions but also resorting to trying too hard to be a one-man team. Unfortunately, most of the team were inconsistent and will raise headaches for Sheens – where and if to play Tim Moltzen and Blake Ayshford, or whether to resign Matt Utai and Lote Tuqiri.

Disagreeing with most, I actually thought Adam Blair was solid enough in his first season, he took time to adjust to the Tigers style and is still not fully there, failing to always provide the solid hit-ups, but he did provide some assistance on attack and certainly was busy on defence (as always he needs to stay disciplined and reduce his penalty count). It is also really disappointing that Gareth Ellis departs as one of the best Tigers forwards but injuries negated his final season in relation to his stellar performances in his too-short Tigers career. I also thought that the Tigers missed a trick by not signing Willie Mason (as I suggested at the time) as he has not been the negative walking headline and sponsors’ headache in 2012, while signing him for peanuts saw him excel in Newcastle. Ray Cashmere offered size but generally was patchy and is not the calibre of a Mason.

The future? – Braith Anasta comes to the club and offers a ball playing forward (or back?) with plenty of leadership and experience. A very gifted footballer and offering more attacking options he is a worthy signature but, nevertheless, not a Gareth Ellis in defence. Eddy Pettybourne will hopefully also add some starch to the team. Whether some players get a contract extension or not remains to be seen (Tuqiri, Utai) but certainly more depth is required on the roster as Tom Humble and Joel Reddy generally disappointed (Reddy’s defence was exposed far too often). Finally, who plays where in certain positions will be an interesting proposition for 2013 (how or if to accommodate Moltzen v Tedesco at fullback, Anasta v Sironen at standoff, and who the right centre and winger will be).

Overall, from being touted premiership favourites, 2012 will be remembered as a failure for the Wests Tigers being always on the fringe of the top 8 but failing to advance to the finals.

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5 Comments

  1. Mr Eldridge 2.0

     /  September 3, 2012

    A killer year for your mob, mate. You must be still smashing the Mad Monday painkillers as we speak.

    Never fear though, Brother Braith will cure all! He will bring that trademark Rooster consistency that Sheens so craves.

    And having Jodi Gordon around the traps can’t be a bad thing….

    Reply
  2. Pretty sound sum up big dog. Although injuries were a factor in our consistincy, I actually think there were a few more prominent reasons for our poor result on the paddock this season.
    1) Aside from Beau Ryan and Utai’s second half of the season all of our backs were absolutey shite! Ayshford was one of the most dissapointing. His defence was woeful and he lacked aggression and spark in attack. He has to go. Reddy was another who dissapointed, particulary in defence. Lawrence, a certainty for a blues jersey only 12 months ago, played himself out of one quick smart and will not get another look in based on this season’s form. He is as one dementional as a sheet of reflex. And then there’s Moltzen. For mine, this guy takes the bulk of the blame for our inept attacking performances. He’s useless under the high ball, shows poor defensive resolve and seems generally out of his depth. He really sucks fat ones.

    Reply
  3. The Senior

     /  September 4, 2012

    Nice review of the season performance.However i think Sheens has been there too long.The majority of players he has shunted are performing better at new clubs.That can’t be coincidence.

    He persevered with Moltzen when it was obvious he should have been punted.

    Matthew Johns hit the nail on the head when he declared the pack to be soft as there are far too many breaks through the middle. The backline has no clue defending,appearing to be a leaderless bunch depending on Benji to have a good day.

    Apart from Ryan it would seem time to clean out the backs,with Lawrence granted a lifeline to get his act together.

    Will it be another20 years before the Tigers roar again?

    Reply
    • Here here! The Senior always brings sense to the table.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the comments. I’m not sure I want to be so reactionary regarding Sheens. He has kept the lid on quite an energetic and erratic lot well in previous seasons and for one result this year (maybe we note the Bulldogs debacle) they would be playing finals footy in 2012. I do agree with the backline to some degree – too many headaches and really confused as to what to do with Moltzen (especially as his re-signing apparently meant he would have first crack at full back), while Ayshford will possibly be bench-warming more or a second rower if he doesn’t spark into life quickly in 2013. Both Lawrence and Marshall were solid enough, but certainly well below their usual high standards and yoyo-ed form-wise (Lawrence seemed to have persistent injury niggles in his defence). At least some young backline talent got blooded that can do well in the future (Koroibete, Sironen and Tedesco) but overall a failure as finals minimum should be an expectation for this squad each year.

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Dane Eldridge Tries Hard

Contemporary rugby league surrealism and hot takes on Shane Warne

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