James Tedesco could only take the Tigers so far
Photo Source: AAP
At the start of the season Wests Tigers hooker Robbie Farah and coach Jason Taylor had supposedly sorted things out between them, but did we really believe it? The saga dragged on until round 20, when Taylor had dumped Farah for good and was then vindicated as the Tigers won the next three matches.
The kerfuffle must have had an effect on team morale, but either way, 2016 proved much better than most had predicted for Wests, who, after a couple of early wins, were struggling at 2-6 before they won nine of their next 15 to be in with a shot at finals footy in the last round. The Tigers were up and down most of the year yet at times looked world-beaters, with James Tedesco having a brilliant year and Mitchell Moses dominating, particularly in the second half of the season.
Where Wests were found wanting was in defence. They ranked 15th for tries conceded, fourth for missed tackles and 15th for metres run. These are damning statistics. Too many times they let the opposition score masses of points quickly, suggesting that perhaps they are still mentally fragile or at least undisciplined. Taylor and the team need to get on top of this if they are to take the next step in 2017. At least the Farah headache is out of the way for next season.
Six games that shaped Wests Tigers' season
Round 1: Wests Tigers d Warriors 34-26
The Tigers hit the 2016 season running with a withering opening to jump New Zealand. At half-time the home side led five tries to one, including an instant contender for try of the year involving Tedesco, Moses, Tim Grant and Kevin Naiqama. But in a sign of what Tigers fans would encounter throughout the season, Shaun Johnson took control as the Warriors ran in three tries in the space of eight minutes to close the margin to just two with plenty of time left. A late second try to Tedesco, however, sealed the win.
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Round 6: Knights d Wests Tigers 18-16
Another win was followed by three creditable losses heading into this 'gimme' game against a lowly Newcastle, who looked a mile off the pace already. Tedesco, who was already being spoken about for a State of Origin debut, got the visitors on the board early with his eighth try of the season thanks to some Moses brilliance. The Knights bounced back soon after with a score to Akuila Uate, before the teams traded further tries for Newcastle to go up 12-10 at the break. They were never headed. The game was memorable for the bizarre incident leading up to the Knights' third try. As Trent Hodkinson sent a high ball toward Tigers winger Jordan Rankin, a surging Korbin Sims happened across a second ball that had been thrown onto the field by a fan and kicked it at Rankin to put him off. The subsequent dropout led to a Nathan Ross try out wide. The Tigers were stiff, but this wasn't the reason they lost and their bright start to the season seemed further and further away.
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Round 8: Raiders d Wests Tigers 60-6
The Tigers were comprehensively outplayed in every department in this 11-tries-to-one shellacking as Canberra proved far too physically strong. Jordan Rapana scored a career-best four tries while Josh Hodgson starred to send Tigers to a sixth consecutive loss. They hit rock bottom, and the only way was up.
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Round 12: Wests Tigers d Broncos 19-18
Two wins from the three games after that Raiders defeat had Wests' season somewhat back on track, yet they came into this match still at long odds against a Brisbane side depleted by Origin call-ups to Corey Parker, Sam Thaiday, Josh McGuire, Matt Gillett, Darius Boyd and Corey Oates. The Tigers were also missing NSW representatives Robbie Farah and Aaron Woods. Luke Brooks starred in a see-sawing match before the Tigers appeared to have the game sealed when a Joshua Addo-Carr try and Moses field goal had them up by seven points late. But the Broncos took the game down to the wire, closing to within a point. The Tigers, however, held on for their best win of the season so far.
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Round 20: Wests Tigers d Dragons 25-12
The first game after Farah was dropped for the rest of the season saw the young Tigers halves Moses and Brooks put in the dominant display that Taylor said Farah's absence would encourage. The disgruntled hooker watched on from the sidelines as the Tigers conceded an early try but then took control, leading 18-8 at the break before Moses produced a big second half to squash any prospects of a St George Illawarra comeback. Farah made sure his time at the club was pretty well up by producing a graceless verbal attack after his NSW Cup game.
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Round 26: Raiders d Wests Tigers 52-10
After the Titans lost the day before this match, the Tigers went into it needing a win for what seemed back in March an unlikely spot in the finals. That they let in 52 points with everything to play for says they were well short of finals quality anyway. Still, they did unearth some talent during the year and 2017 is full of promise.
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Will the Tigers play finals in 2017? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
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