Wests Tigers Mid-Season Review
The season started brightly under new coach Jason Taylor, with two straight wins. But a couple of big capitulations against the Bulldogs and Raiders hurt and the side slipped to a 4-4 record, before losing another four straight to dip down to 13th on the ladder at the midway point, with finals already looking a long way off. The Tigers have had a luckier run with injuries than most sides and have at least enjoyed consistency in the key 1-6-7-9 positions which should be making their combinations smoother – but so far this hasn't seemed to be the case.
The run home: Just five of their remaining 12 games are against current top-eight teams and outside of a tough three-game run against the Broncos, Roosters and Storm from Round 19 the rest of it doesn't look too scary, with matches still to come against the three sides below them on the ladder.
Game to remember: The club's most recent win was back in Round 8 but it was arguably their best and given that powerful 38-14 result over the Bulldogs it becomes even more of a surprise that they've struggled to back it up since. The match is best remembered for winger Kevin Naiqama's miraculous flick back infield from well over the dead ball line but the victory was built on another massive 218-metre effort from Aaron Woods with fullback James Tedesco and halfback Luke Brooks each bagging two tries.
The one that got away: There are two that will burn long for the Concord boys; giving up an 18-6 advantage against the Dogs in Round 4 hurts but the one that really stings came at their spiritual home of Leichhardt against the Raiders in Round 7.
The black and golds blasted out to a 22-0 lead in as many minutes but a lack of ruthlessness and concentration allowed the Green Machine to claw two tries back before half-time to make it a more manageable 22-12. The visitors kicked on from there, completing a run of 30 unanswered points throughout the second half in a remarkable 30-22 win.
MVP: Kangaroos prop Aaron Woods has been simply immense in 2015. His 220 metres per game is far and away the most of any prop and his consistency has been incredible. The other star has been fullback James Tedesco, who has shrugged off some injury-ruined seasons to play every game for the Tigers so far in 2015. He is light years ahead of the pack in terms of tackle breaks with 73, next best is Newcastle's Dane Gagai with 55, and only four players have scored more than his nine tries.
Stats that matter: The 242 points conceded by the Tigers is actually eighth best, if anything it's their attack that's letting them down. Only three clubs have scored fewer than their 211 points. Halfback Luke Brooks's nine try assists are the fifth most by any player and fourth most among halves but he's not getting much help in that department – five-eighth Mitchell Moses has only laid on one try outside of the two he set up in the aforementioned Bulldogs romp, while skipper and hooker Robbie Farah has three.
Fantasy stud: Robbie Farah ($466,000) isn't quite the Fantasy force he was last year due to taking more of a back seat in attack but he is still the side's best Fantasy scorer, averaging 58.2. Unsurprisingly, metre-eater Woods ($431,000) and tackle-breaker Tedesco ($363,000) are next on the list, averaging 56.6 and 48 respectively.
Injury report: winger David Nofoaluma has played just one game so far this year after suffering an ankle injury in his comeback from a knee injury, and there is fresh news back-rower Curtis Sironen will likely miss six weeks with a neck concern. Farah has missed a couple with a shoulder injury suffered in Origin and prop Matt Lodge missed a chunk of the season but outside of that it's only been the odd niggle that have caused players like Keith Galloway and Tim Simona to miss a game here and there.
What they are saying: "I suppose everything changes with every new coach that comes in. They have their different theories and ways they like to run things," Chris Lawrence said of the team adapting to new coach Jason Taylor's more defence-oriented approach.
"We have been introduced to a completely new defensive-end attacking structure so it's going to take time and given we have a lot of young guys as well, and quite inexperienced guys it's going to take those guys a bit longer as well. We've gone through stages, we thought we started the season well and we're doing other things well but we have taken a step back the past four weeks in those areas."
Predicted finish: The Tigers are part of a group that is slipping away from the main pack and it's tough to see them clawing too much of that space back. While this young side has a mountain of improvement in them, whether they can show that this season in time to improve much on their current 13th-place standing is another question – we've got them finishing about where they are now.