With the Wests Tigers entering their 20th season, we thought we would take a look back at some of the Best and Worst Moments in Wests Tigers’ history.
Joel and Eddie discussed these moments on Episode 3 of the podcast last weekend. Which do you think are the best and worst overall?
Best and Worst Moments/Periods in Wests Tigers History
2005 Preliminary Final at Allianz Stadium
Wests Tigers’ fans will long remember 24 September 2005 as the Wests Tigers stunned the Dragons 20-12 in the Preliminary Final in a turbo charged atmosphere at Allianz Stadium. The Dragons came into the game as raging hot favourites, having had the week off, but the Wests Tigers led from start to finish, and produced a great defensive effort in the second half to hold on to the win, with Dene Halatau having a memorable performance scoring two tries.
Winning the 2004 World Sevens
The Wests Tigers won their first trophy as a joint venue when they defeated Parramatta 18-7 in the final of the Rugby League World Sevens tournament in Sydney in 2004. In what came to be the final edition of the tournament, a young Tigers’ side, with many new signings, qualified for the final after a thrilling 19-18 victory over St George Illawarra. The team contained plenty of new signings, and a fresh faced Benji Marshall, and might have given the Club that winning impetus before the all conquering 2005 season.
Marshall and Farah Debut in 2003
The first seeds of a new era of hope were sewn in 2003 with the debut of two players who went on to be perhaps the two greatest in the Club’s history to date. Robbie Farah, a Balmain junior, debuted in a big win against Manly at Leichhardt Oval, showing glimpses of his future potential. Benji Marshall was just a school kid from Keebra Park when he made a shock debut from the bench in a huge win over the Knights at Campbelltown.
Benji Marshall’s Magical Performance at Shark Park in 2005
The Tigers arrived at Shark Park on a 4-match winning streak, and with a young side surging towards the finals. Tigers fans on hand witnessed a dazzling display by Benji Marshall, including one of the most iconic try assists in history, as he put on an electric stepping display before breaking down field and firing a no-look 20 metre cut out pass to Pat Richards. The Tigers scored several freewheeling tries with their cavalier style of football, running out 46-6 winners for their biggest ever victory over the Sharks at the time. Fellow halfback Scott Prince also grabbed his first hat-trick in Wests Tigers’ colours, while fullback Brett Hodgson kicked seven goals from eight attempts.
2011 Nine-Game Winning Streak
The Wests Tigers entered their Round 18 clash against the Cowboys as a Club under pressure, with just 7 wins from 16 games, and looking likely to miss the finals after making the Preliminary Final the previous year. The Tigers won their remaining eight games of the regular season, including impressive 2-point victories over powerhouse Many and the Dragons in back-to-back weeks. They took their winning streak to 9 games with a 21-12 victory over the Dragons at ANZ Stadium in the first week of the finals, before falling to the Warriors in Week 2.
Winning the Competition in 2005 as 151/1 Outsiders
The Wests Tigers had failed to make the finals in their first five years as a Joint Venture, and looked to be heading the same way in 2005 after they slumped to a 40-22 loss in Brisbane and a 6-8 record with just 10 games remaining. The Tigers were marked as 151/1 to win the competition, but surged to an 8-game winning streak, before losing their final two games of the regular season. The Tigers were dominant in the finals, thrashing the Cowboys and Broncos before stunning the Dragons and beating the Cowboys once more in the Grand Final decider, 30-16, in a fairytale season. A bunch of local juniors, cast off signings, and veteran coach Tim Sheens combined for one of Rugby League’s great stories, playing a cavalier style of football with a young side that included no Origin players.
2001 On and Off Field Dramas
The Tigers entered 2001 off the back of narrowly missing the finals in their first year as a joint venture, having collapsed in the second half of the season, after being placed second after 10 rounds. During the 2001 pre-season, key players Craig Field and Kevin McGuinness tested positive to prohibited drugs and both received a one year suspension. Worse was to follow as John Hopoate earned worldwide notoriety when he was charged with inserting his finger into the anus of opposition players. Hopoate quit the Club and received a long suspension. New Head Coach Terry Lamb was criticised for seeming to condone the activity, and the Tigers struggled near the foot of the table all season.
2004 Back-to-Back Fifty Point Losses
Whilst the 2004 season was far from a disaster for the Tigers, winning the World Sevens and finishing 9th on the table, they did endure a nightmare patch in the middle of the season. They were pummelled 56-0 by the Roosters at Campbelltown, before being thrashed 50-0 the following week at Kogarah by a rampant Saints. Images of Bryce Gibbs crying on the bench surfaced at Campbelltown, as the side trailed by more than 30 points before halftime.
2007 Miss Finals after Late Collapse
The Wests Tigers needed to win just one of their remaining two games to make the finals in 2007, having missed the finals in 2006 as defending Premiers. They entered their Round 25 game against Souths, with the game having been sold out on the Monday and Leichhardt Oval packed to the rafters. However, the Tigers were blown away by a Rabbitohs’ side that sealed their first finals’ place since their readmission, winning 44-18. The following Friday night, Wests Tigers spectacularly missed a chance to atone by blowing a 24-12 lead over the last placed Knights, to lose 26-24, as players slumped to the ground as they realised they had blown a golden opportunity to finish in eighth place.
Career Ending Injuries to Simon Dwyer and Taniela Tuiaki
Hailing from Macquarie Fields, Simon Dwyer was a local junior who promised much for the Wests Tigers. After debuting for City in 2011 later that season, Dwyer suffered a brachial plexus injury against the Bulldogs which saw him unable to play for the rest of the season. Sadly it become apparent that Dwyer would not regain functionality in his right arm. As of 2018, Dwyer works with the West Tigers as a Performance Analyst.
Taniela Tuiaki was a wrecking ball of a winger who was in dominant form in both 2008 and 2009. An extremely popular player and great winger, “The Tank” was stopped in his tracks by a tragic ankle injury in a season defining loss to the Eels late in the 2009 season. Despite making multiple attempts to return, the double break of the ankle would never sufficiently heal and Tuiaki was forced to retire prematurely.
Robbie Farah and Jason Taylor Feud
There were no winners from one of Rugby League’s great feuds between Wests Tigers’ Captain Robbie Farah and Head Coach Jason Taylor. Taylor came to the Club in 2015 and immediately wanted to put his imprint on the side, telling Farah to look elsewhere in 2016 or risk playing Reserve Grade, despite being the NSW Origin hooker and having three years left on his contract. In a bizarre twist, Taylor was forced to apologise to Farah before the 2016 season started and things seemed to be on the mend, before Taylor dropped Farah to Reserve Grade with 8 games remaining in the season. Farah left the Club at the end of 2016, despite always stating he wanted to be a One-Club player. Taylor survived just three games into Season 2017 when he was sacked after the side was trounced by Canberra.
Ivan Cleary Saga
Just when the Wests Tigers looked to have put all their recent coaching dramas behind them, Ivan Cleary pulled a rabbit out of his own hat by backing off on a long term deal with the Tigers to go back and coach his son at Penrith. Cleary had made progress with a relatively unheralded side, and introduced the mantra of everyone “jumping on the bus” including having shots at former players Mitchell Moses for leaving the Club in the circumstances he did. Cleary portrayed himself as a man of honour and integrity, however the way he slipped out the back door at the first opportunity won’t be forgotten by Tigers’ fans despite the progress he had made with the team as a coach.
Semi-Final Near Misses
Despite only making the finals on three occasions in their 19 year history, the Tigers made a significant imprint each time they did enter September finals’ football. Having won the competition in 2005, the Tigers made the Top 4 in both 2010 and 2011 but suffered heartbreaking losses in both finals’ campaigns. The Tigers lost in controversial circumstances to both the Roosters 18-14 in extra time, and 13-12 to the Dragons, in Preliminary Finals’ games marred by marginal decisions. The Tigers led both games at halftime, and led the Roosters 14-2 with just fifteen minutes remaining. In 2011 they again blew a lead against the Warriors in the Week 2 finals’ clash, conceding a last minute try to Krisnan Inu to go down 22-20, to end a 9-match winning streak which saw many pundits see them as favourites to win the title.
Did we miss any great, or not so great moments? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.