Mid-Season Review: Wests Tigers

Position after 13 rounds: 5th
Wins: 7
Losses: 5
Byes: 1
Points: 16
Differential: 19


Peaks and troughs… Jekyll and Hyde… the 2010 Wests Tigers outfit is certainly hard to predict but at the halfway point of the year they are in great position to end a four-year finals drought.

The 2005 premiers haven’t been back to the end-of-season dance since that faithful year but they sit in fifth place at the halfway point and should be good enough to shake the recent hoodoo.
 
The side opened the year impressively, winning four of the first five but then hit the wall big time as injuries struck and a confidence crisis took hold. It resulted in a four-match losing streak, the last of which was an embarrassing 50-10 loss against South Sydney at the Sydney Cricket Ground, and once again this side looked headed for the also-ran pile.

But another rally has turned things around and heading into their second bye the side has won three straight and once again they appear to be a premiership contender.

Are Things Going To Plan?
In the most part things are going to plan but you need to basically forget about the month-long losing streak to be content thus far.

The Tigers have shown the ability to win tight games and to blow teams off the park – which is certainly pleasing – but it would not be in the plan to show a distinct weakness in sections of games.

Other than a few huge wins the Tigers have had distinct down periods in games, making them vulnerable. It started in Round 1 where they let Manly get an early jump on them but were good enough to come back late. They let the Roosters go on a small rampage in Round 2 and couldn’t run them down and had to be brilliant in the second half against Canberra after being dismal early.

When they play for 80 minutes, and play direct before unleashing their lateral-moving attack, they are awesome. When they try to shift the ball too early and without go-forward, they look weak.

Injury Front…
Injuries haven’t been kind and they’ll be hoping for a change of luck in the back half of the year.

Jason Cayless, Liam Fulton, Keith Galloway, Robert Lui, Tim Moltzen, Taniela Tuiaki, Blake Ayshford and Todd Payten have all had time off, some much more than others.

Cayless, Fulton, Moltzen, Galloway, Tuiaki and Ayshford are still out now, hoping to return sooner rather than later.

If Only… The Tigers have five losses at this stage of the year – and the reality is they deserved to lose all five.

They certainly had chances the second time around against the Roosters when they led late but allowed the tri-colours to sneak home 12-8. Other than that they were just beaten by a better side on the day.

Tim Sheens’ men didn’t help themselves by playing like amateurs on those occasions and maybe if the team wasn’t reportedly fractured due to some off-field incidents and internal sanctions, they might have performed better at the time.

However, lately all looks forgotten and the side is back on track.

Who’s Flying… It’s a mixed bag for the Tigers, as certain players have been as up and down as the team – but the usual suspects such as Gareth Ellis, Chris Heighington and Keith Galloway (when fit) have been strong in the forward pack.

Lote Tuqiri has been pretty awesome on the wing most weeks, but has had quiet moments too, and the same can be said for explosive centre Chris Lawrence.

The returning Liam Fulton has been much better than when he left for the UK but injuries have hampered his progress.

Needs To Lift…
This seems almost unfair to say but Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah need to go up another level.

The pair have had some cracking games – but then they have had the odd shocker as well and players of their calibre cannot afford to be as inconsistent as they have been.

Farah especially has lacked a little punch and pizzazz on occasions, perhaps due to the disappointment of missing Origin selection. If this pair can be at 80 per cent or more every week then the Tigers will be hard to stop… but if one or both drops down to 60 per cent, the job becomes much tougher.

With consistent performance from this pair, the Tigers are smokies for the title.

Coach Tim Sheens Tells NRL.com… “We’ve been hot and cold, that’s for sure, but we’re sitting fairly well at the halfway point and that’s pleasing considering the issues and injuries we’ve had to deal with.

“In the last few seasons we’ve needed to win eight of our last nine, or something like that, and while I’d like to do that we aren’t in that position at this stage.

“We can’t get carried away, as we have some hard games coming, but we have given ourselves a reasonable start coming into the back end.”

Predicted Finish… Are likely to factor in somewhere between fifth and ninth, but look lock-ins to make the playoffs from here.

A tough last five rounds will be the true test of their mettle.

Under-20s… The Wests Tigers cubs are one of the early front-runners and favourites in the Toyota Cup, having lost just four games.

After a slow start, losing their first two games, the side went on a seven-game run to prove their credentials. Strong in both attack and defence, this is a side to watch come finals.

Fullback Jake Mullaney is carving it, topping the pointscorer’s list with 11 tries and 46 goals for 136 points, while lock Matt Hyland ranks second in the comp for tackles made (431).