With Project Apollo led by Balmain legend Wayne Pearce confirming the 28thof May as the return date for the NRL competition, footy fans can finally cheer in relief that the shutdown is nearly over.
The Wests Tigers in their first two games of the 2020 NRL season delivered a come from behind victory against the Dragons and a disappointing loss against the Knights.
Although the Tigers showed grit to come from behind against St George-Illawarra, a big takeaway from both games was that the consistency was really lacking.
The Tigers forwards looked like world-beaters one game but got quite easily outmuscled a week later.
The defensive effort in round 2 was particularly disappointing with the team conceding 42 points.
So for Wests Tigers to make the Top 8 in 2020, the team really needs to find a way to rise to a new level of consistency that Michael Maguire should be expecting from a squad that doesn’t lack in talent.
Here are the players that need to stand up in 2020 if the Tigers are chance of playing finals footy:
The Samoan international will play a massive role on the outcome of the Wests Tigers 2020 season. With experienced middle forwards such as Russell Packer in doubt to take the field any time soon, Aloiai is now one of the most experienced forwards in the Tigers pack.
If the Tigers are to make the eight in 2020, Aloiai needs to prove that he can start in the front row and perform consistently at a high standard.
In two games the big prop delivered inconsistent results recording an impressive 187 running meters from 15 runs and 19 tackles in round 1 but only 81 meters from 9 runs and 27 tackles against the Knights.
As a leader of the forward pack, Aloiai needs to prove that he can match it with the elite props of the competition for the Tigers forward pack to deliver more consistent performances this year.
The loan player from the Melbourne Storm will play a key role for the Tigers in 2020.
Hooker is one of the most important positions on the field because that’s the position that touches the ball the most.
With Luke Brooks out, it was clear from watching the Newcastle game that taking space away from Benji Marshall completely disjointed our attack.
If Grant can live up to the hype that has followed him in the lower grades, the Tigers attack will go to another level as players like Brooks, Marshall and Adam Doueihi will have so much more space to create try-scoring opportunities.
Harry Grant is an exceptional playmaker from dummy half close to the line in regards to his pass selection and has proven that he is an electric presence from marker which means middle defenders can’t afford to slide off of him without being punished.
Expect Grant’s game to mesh well with Luke Brooks as the Tigers look to improve their attack.
The Tigers junior has without a doubt been the club’s best and most consistent player in the last two seasons.
At times, especially against the Knights, the Tigers attack looked very one dimensional with everything having to come off the back of Benji Marshall.
The Tigers kicking game was particularly under pressure and the addition of Brooks will add a dominant playmaker and another kicking option.
For the Tigers to find another level of consistency, Luke Brooks needs to take the next step into becoming an elite player in the competition which he is more than capable of doing.
The real Tiger king showed in the first two rounds that he still has a lot to contribute to the game and Wests Tigers will need every spec of Marshall magic they can muster if they want to be successful in 2020.
While players like Grant and Brooks will run the ball the most in the team, Marshall has shown that he can greatly affect the game by being an elite decision-maker and game manager that will take the right option.
This is a great foil for Brooks who is often at his best when playing unstructured footy.
There’s no substitute for experience which is why the Tigers need Marshall to be at his best if they want to become a finals team.
The new recruit from the Dragons really impressed me in his first two games for the Tigers in 2020.
Leilua was a consistent threat on the edge recording 1 try, 1 offload, 1 tackle break, 127 meters from 13 runs and 31 tackles against the Dragons and another try, 3 tackle breaks, 87 meters from 9 runs and 37 tackles against the Knights.
From watching the games, it is also clear that Luciano has a lot of improvement left in him and with more match fitness, we’ll hopefully see a massive step in Leilua’s production on the field.
Although, the Knights exposed the young second-rower in terms of his defensive lapses to a certain extent.
This is an area that Leilua needs to work on if the Tigers are to find consistency in their defense.
The exciting thing about Leilua is that he’s the first edge player since the likes of Simon Dwyer and Gareth Ellis who can wins games off the back of the x-factor they provide to the team.
Going into the 2020 season, there was a debate as to whether the Tigers would enter round 1 with Corey Thompson or new recruit Adam Doueihi at fullback.
Although Thompson started against the Dragons at fullback, both players played minutes at 1 against the Knights.
Thompson’s positional play was good in round 2 but Adam Doueihi looked much more threatening from the back.
At 21 years of age, if Doueihi can find his role in the attack, there is no doubt that the Tigers will have one of the best spines in the competition.
Although most likely a long term Five-Eight, the Lebanese International showed signs of game-breaking ability during 2019 at fullback for the bunnies.
The biggest challenge for Doueihi in 2020 will be learning the positional play that is required of the modern-day fullback.
Players like James Tedesco and Tom Trbojevic are the best fullbacks in the game because they’re exactly in the right part of the field when they need to be whether it’s supporting their forwards up the middle of the field or playing off the back of a block play.
If Doueihi can learn this, there’s no doubt that he can become a first-class fullback which will make the Tigers a much greater threat this season
In round 1, Thomas Mikaele was the Tigers best forward, but in a well-beaten forward pack against the Knights, the young forward struggled to make an impact.
At his best, Mikaele has shown signs that he is capable of being the Tigers most threatening ball runner but the young prop must find a way to bridge the gap between his best and worst performance.
In a pack full of young forwards, players like Mikaele, along with Leilua are crucial in the Tigers push to the finals due to their ability to break a game upon which the Tigers have been lacking in recent years.
Digital image by Robb Cox © NRL Photos