5 reasons Wests Tigers can win in 2014
1. An all-out youth movement
Apparently every team has a bountiful supply of rock star under-20s talent begging to get their names in the spotlight, but none are more ready than the ones brewing on the banks of Concord. Which is a good thing, because the Tigers' crop will have to be ready this season. Having survived the death knell late last year, coach Mick Potter now places his future in the hands of a squad that is greener than a home-grown Christmas tree. With almost two-thirds of his roster under the age of 26, Potter has one of, if not the most talented batch of kids in the game. Luke Brooks, Mitchell Moses, Tim Simona, James Tedesco, David Nofoaluma, Kyle Lovett and Nathan Brown aren't quite household names just yet, but they will be.
2. A once-in-a-generation talent
And the pick of the bunch, the creme de la creme, is none other than Luke Brooks, who has enjoyed cult status since his elevation into first grade last season. His future is so promising that assistant coach Todd Payten couldn't help but compare him to the great Andrew Johns, giving Tigers fans ample reason to quickly forget the feats and failures of one Benji Marshall. Short and dumpy but with all the skills in Joey's handbook, the teenager looks like every bit the once-in-a-generation talent, making his progression against the NRL elite worth keeping an eye on this year.
3. No more Marshall magic
It was certainly an inglorious exit for fan favourite Benji Marshall, whose alarming drop off in form in recent years culminated in an ignominious demotion to the bench just nine games into 2013. Having ruled Tigerland for the best part of 13 years, his absence will create a significant shift both off the field and on, meaning we're about to see a vastly different Wests Tigers team than the one we're accustomed to. And, based on the results of the past few seasons, that can only be a good thing.
4. Wingmen will fly
The first has the power of Akuila Uate, the height of Lote Tuqiri and the speed of Brett Morris; the second scored one of the most spectacular, gravity-defying tries of the past decade; and the third is a former Man of Steel who nails 60-metre field goals like he breathes air.
They mightn't be the most accomplished trio in Tigers history, but it's clear that having Marika Koroibete, David Nofoaluma and/or Pat Richards on the flanks is an undisputable strength for the Wests Tigers to play off next season. Two are burgeoning stars and the third is a lot more than the 2005 Grand Final highlight he's been advertised to be.
5. Sunday afternoon footy returns to Leichhardt
It was a cardinal sin for rugby league not to be played under the bathing Sunday afternoon sunshine last year, and in some twisted way, the Tigers paid the consequences. But the romance of Leichhardt returns in 2014 and with it, so should the Tigers, who enjoy a special relationship with their boutique ground like no other team. At the very least, we're all going to enjoy the dulcet tones of Ray Warren and Phil Gould bantering about how much they love their Sunday football, but we're betting the Tigers might benefit from the environment a lot more.