A new coach, an injury-prone fullback, a promising halfback, and a 2014 wrecked by off-field disruptions... Below are five questions the Wests Tigers must address ahead of season 2015.
1. Is Jason Taylor the right man?
It's like arguing over whether Ben Affleck will make a good Bruce Wayne – no one will really know until the excrement hits the fan and Taylor needs to use his scary voice to keep the antagonists in line. But if skipper Robbie Farah's first impression is anything to go by – and some might say his opinion is all that matters in Tigerland – then so far, so good. Taylor also arrives in Concord with a strong recommendation from reborn Roosters halfback Mitchell Pearce, which should be music to the ears of young halves Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks. So is he the right man? We'll let that question burn until June.
2. Can they get a full, healthy season from James Tedesco?
There's a reason why Canberra were prepared to give James Tedesco the keys to the Parliament House, but there's also a reason why people wondered whether he could limp far enough to get there. In his three years with the top squad, the prodigiously talented fullback has proven to be the ultimate NRL tease; he flashed his freakish abilities for a rugby league second in his rookie season before going down with an ACL on debut; proved his worth playing with a cracked fibula in a strong second year; then fractured his patella to end his 2014 season early – coincidentally against the team he had only just reneged on – in his third. Tedesco, and a couple of other Tiger cubs, need to stay healthy for the club to have any kind of success in 2015.
3. Will Luke Brooks learn how to tackle?
Picking on the little blokes never ends well – just ask Wigan villain Ben Flower. But after witnessing Brooks miss 116 tackles this season, it is both an obligation and our duty to ask the question: Will Luke Brooks fix his defensive deficiencies? The question does come with a couple of qualifiers. First, it was his first full season in the toughest position in the NRL; and second, perennial category leader Chris Sandow is an established NRL halfback. The second fact is largely significant given the extended – or multiple – opportunities Sandow has been given despite his weaknesses. And the first indicates Brooks still has the time to figure out how to not be a weak link in defence.
4. Can they score enough tries?
Remember when the Tigermen were the kings of rugby league entertainment? Not even a three-part halftime show consisting of Justice Crew, Jessica Mauboy and Slash could conjure up more entertainment than the former free-wheeling joint venture, whose 2005-era playbook boasted more magic tricks than a David Copperfield special. But despite creating more second phase than they knew what to do with in 2014, the Tigers only scored more tries than the lowly Sharks and Titans. That makes meat pies priority number one for JT from November.
5. Is the instability over?
Given the new board's hasty decision to deny Mick Potter another opportunity with the club, we're hesitant to guarantee anything. But, together with the three new independent directors hand-picked by the NRL, Jason Taylor and the new hierarchy went on to put the broom through almost the entire football department. Others given the tap on the shoulder post-season included club icons and staff Paul Sironen, Steve Roach and John Skandalis. Assistant coach Andrew Webster has also joined the Warriors. You'd think all things being equal that Taylor and his new team would be given a bit longer than his predecessor.