Tigers must make the most of 2017
Following a year of near misses, Wests Tigers prop Ava Seumanufagai believes his club is ready to go one better in 2017 and end its five-year absence from the coveted NRL Telstra Premiership top eight.
There were plenty of positive signs from one of the competition's youngest teams last season, and the time is right for the Tigers' bright stars to step up and take their games to new heights.
With the quartet of James Tedesco, Mitch Moses, Luke Brooks and Aaron Woods all off contract at the end of 2017, Seumanufagai said it was imperative for the team to lift next season to avoid any 'what could have been' scenarios.
"There's a core centre of boys who have been together for a while now," he told Tigers TV as part of their Unfiltered series.
"Last year we got to see that come into play with everyone talking about all the younger boys growing up and becoming more experienced.
"I think it's getting to that stage now where all of us boys have been together for a while and we know how we play.
"We might not be here next year – a lot of boys might move on – so we've really got to seize this year, seize this opportunity and give it everything for next year."
Wests Tigers had a chance to make the finals last season but missed out on a spot in the top eight after being thrashed by the Raiders 52-10 at Leichhardt Oval in Round 26.
It was a frustrating finish for the Tigers who finished on 26 competition points - just one shy of the eighth-placed Titans – especially given their record in tight matches.
Jason Taylor's men lost three of their four matches that were decided by two points or less, including a one-point defeat in the final minute to the Titans in Round 23 that ultimately cost them a spot in the playoffs.
Seumanufagai said the playing group would use that as motivation in 2017 and would not make the same mistakes twice with games in the balance.
"The little games count. There were a few close games that we had throughout the year, and just one of those wins would have taken us there (to the finals)," he said.
"I think we just need to win one of those really close games [because] you never know which game will count towards the end.
"We're a better team than last year and we were so close to making it so I'm really excited."
Rather than copy what other teams have been doing, Seumanufagai believes the Tigers' best hope of returning to the finals is to embrace their own identity and play their own style of football.
"You've got to find a difference in something other teams aren't doing and you've got to make sure that you're doing that," he said.
"All the NRL teams are doing the same thing and same plays so we've got to make sure we're doing more or something to add a difference."
Seumanufagai and rookie Josh Aloiai were the only Tigers to play all 24 matches last season, and as he approaches his fifth season in the NRL, the 25-year-old took some time to reflect on his impending 100-game milestone.
"It honestly feels like I debuted last year. The older boys when they say 'time flies' I guess it really does. I'm still young at heart though," he laughed.
"[I've learned] to be honest with yourself as a trainer and as a person, and goal-setting helps as well.
"Whenever I'm on – either at the start of the game or the middle of the game – I've just got to do my job and I know that the team and everyone else is counting on me so that's on my shoulders."
This video first featured at weststigers.com.au