Wests Tigers 2024 season preview

Wests Tigers 2024 season preview

2023 recap

2023 was another year to forget for the Wests Tigers, as they collected a second straight wooden spoon. Four wins out of 24 was a pitiful return, but there was the odd glimmer of hope, like the 66-18 hammering of the Cowboys in Round 12 and a 12-8 win over a near full-strength Penrith side a few weeks earlier. All in all though, there were very few positives to take for the Tigers, as they made it 12 straight years without reaching the NRL finals.

2023 position: 17th

Key signings

Solomon Alaimalo (Rugby Union), Solomona Faataape (Brisbane Tigers), Latu Fainu (Manly Sea Eagles), Samuela Fainu (Manly Sea Eagles), Justin Olam (Melbourne Storm), Aidan Sezer (Leeds Rhinos), Jayden Sullivan (St George Illawarra Dragons)

Key departures

Shawn Blore (Melbourne Storm), Luke Brooks (Manly Sea Eagles), Aitasi James (Manly Sea Eagles), Daine Laurie (Penrith Panthers), Ken Maumalo (Gold Coast Titans), Joe Ofahengaue (Parramatta Eels), Tommy Talau (Manly Sea Eagles), Brandon Wakeham (Manly Sea Eagles)

Players to watch

A lot will be expected of Justin Olam in 2024, following his arrival from Melbourne Storm. Not too long ago, the Papua New Guinea international was one of the best centres in the world, and he got Dally M recognition in 2021 to prove it. However, last year he found himself out of the Storm side for much of the year and the fact they were happy to release him from his contract early tells its own story. Needs a big 2024.

Jayden Sullivan is another new boy with a point to prove. At one stage it looked as though he’d be one of the Dragons’ halves for years to come, but the joint-venture club were happy to let him walk away before the end of his contract, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he uses that as motivation to have a big year with his new side.

Young gun

The Tigers were labelled as desperate when they forked out $4m to bring in the Latu Fainu and his brother, Samuela, from Manly, and maybe there’s some truth in that, but the Tigers must have spotted something to part with so much money. Regardless of whether he turns out to be good value or not, I’m excited to see what the 18-year-old is all about if he makes his NRL debut this year.

Our prediction – 17th

I just can’t see the Tigers making major strides this year, if any. I’m expecting them to be a bit more competitive than in 2023, and they could potentially climb as high as 14th, but a finals spot still looks a million miles off, and there are a lot of far stronger squads in the NRL. Having said that, sometimes a rookie coach can spark a quick upturn in fortunes, but there are just too many ‘ifs, buts and maybes’ for me to predict anything other than a third straight wooden spoon.

Darren Notley

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