It’s been a busy pre-season for Wests Tigers. A big overhaul of players has taken place, and the question remains whether they come out the other end in good shape or not.
The two big imports are in the centres. They have an entirely new centre partnership. Adam Doueihi has joined the club from South Sydney Rabbitohs while Joey Leilua has signed after playing in the Grand Final with Canberra Raiders last year.
Esan Marsters has moved on to the Cowboys.
Leilua is joined at Wests by his brother Luciano who comes to the Tigers from the Dragons.
After their exploits in the market, the Tigers’ backline looks exciting, with their two new centres flanked by Robert Jennings and David Nofoaluma or even Paul Momirovski who featured for the Australian Prime Minister’s XIII in the autumn.
The tricky part for coach Michael Maguire is fitting in Moses Mbye. The former Canterbury Bulldog is a victim of his utility and could even feature in the hooking role with Wests a little short in that position. Former Catalans coach Kevin Walters’ son, Billy, could also feature in that position in 2020 after signing with the club from Melbourne Storm.
The rest of the Tigers’ pack is very young but has a lot of promise. Alex Twal has stepped up brilliantly into a starting prop forward in the NRL while their back row features the talents of Michael Chee-Kam and Luke Garner.
Coach: Michael Maguire
A familiar face for UK-based Rugby League supporters, Michael Maguire (above) is heading into his second season as Wests Tigers boss after a decent opening season. The Tigers were within a whisker of a Finals berth despite many predicting them to struggle.
Maguire is a vastly experienced coach at the tender age of 46. He coached Wigan to Grand Final and Challenge Cup Final success in his two years with the club before winning an NRL Grand Final with South Sydney in 2014.
Maguire is the current coach of the New Zealand national side alongside his commitments with the Tigers.
Star Player: Luke Brooks
Luke Brooks (pictured, top) has spent his entire NRL career with Wests Tigers to date. He made his debut in 2013 but is still only 25, despite racking up over 130 NRL appearances.
Brooks has earned individual honours for his excellent performances from half-back. In 2018, he won the Half-back of the Year award at the Dally M awards evening and finished third in the overall award as well.
Any hopes that the Tigers have of success in 2020 rest on Brooks’ shoulders.
He’s ably assisted in the halves by the evergreen Benji Marshall allowing Brooks to concentrate on controlling the game with his brilliant short kicking game.
Rugby League World Predicts: 15th
First published in Rugby League World, Issue 467 (March 2020)