Looking to 2012: Wests Tigers
New signings, new combinations, old players returning, veterans squeezing out another season, rookies looking to make an impact and coaches looking for a new challenge.
2012 will see all of the following things happen as teams like Manly look to preserve the status quo, while others, like the Titans, look to turn things around.
We take an in depth look at the ins and outs for the Wests Tigers and discuss what they mean for the club.
A big season of upheaval has come at the Tigers following two disappointing finals series knockouts, both in controversial circumstances. The player cleanout which threatened to ruin their 2011 season has seen big changes to their line-up and coaching staff in 2012. They have a marquee recruit again in the form of Adam Blair, but also some underrated youngsters and experienced old heads to have one of the most balanced squads in the competition.
The big in: Adam Blair – one of the biggest news stories of the 2011 season surrounded the Tigers purchase of Blair, which supposedly saw up to five players depart as a result. Blair will add some class, size and aggression which the Tigers pack have lacked in recent seasons.
The big out: Bryce Gibbs – while much was made recently over the departure of another young star, Gibbs move to Cronulla is a big loss for the Tigers. His workload and defensive prowess is heavily underrated, and has often been the catalyst for the Tigers late-season runs in the past two years.
The rookie/young gun: Jacob Miller – with the future of current halfback Robert Lui up in the air, Miller could get his shot at the top grade after some sporadic appearances in 2011. He is highly rated at the Tigers, and could provide the control and kicking game which they have lacked since Scott Prince’s departure.
The big question: Will Blair have the impact that the Tigers pack have been looking for?
The veteran: Chris Heighington – there were rumblings of a move to Penrith during the middle of the year, but Heighington was going nowhere. The heart and soul of the Tigers club, he will return in 2012 an international after selection in the England squad for the Four Nations.
The wild card: Blake Ayshford – winner of the Tigers Member’s Player of the Year, Ayshford is probably the most underrated centre in the game. While Lawrence has the speed and the class on the left edge, Ayshford has shown leg-drive and a handy offload to bring the right side attack to life late in the year.
The top squad: Brown, Tuqiri, Ayshford, Lawrence, Ryan, Marshall, Miller, Woods, Farah (c), Galloway, Blair, Ellis, Heighington. Fulton, Groat, Bell, Reddy.
Ins: Adam Blair, Joel Reddy, Matt Bell, Tom Humble, John Grant
Outs: Bryce Gibbs, Tim Moltzen, Todd Payten, Wade McKinnon, Geoff Daniela, Mark Flanagan, Andrew Fifita