Now that the dust has settled from missing out on Tevita Pangai Junior, the Wests Tigers still have one roster spot to fill for 2021 and most likely numerous roster spots for 2022.
Straight off the bat, the club must re-sign both Thomas Mikaele and Alex Seyfarth before the end of the season.
There’s no excuse to lose any of the two now that no significant money will likely be going to a marquee signing for next year.
At the start of the year, I didn’t have much stock in either player but both Seyfarth and Mikaele have shown in different ways what they can add to the team.
Seyfarth with his energy, aggression, and link play has been a real breath of fresh air in the middle of the field. I think the Balmain Tigers junior is going to be a very important squad member going forward next season.
Mikaele on the other hand has all the potential in the world.
The big Prop can run for 100 meters off the bench, offload and bust a tackle but most importantly, he seems to have the skill to go against the grain and bust a game open with an unorthodox run.
A two-year contract for both middle-forwards would be a great move by the club.
The latest news from the players’ market is that the St George-Illawarra Dragons have once again expressed an interest in signing Moses Mbye effective immediately.
On the last occasion, it was rumored that the Dragons were only willing to chip in around 10% of Mbye’s wage and even though the former Bulldog has failed to live up to his price tag since moving to Concord, it just doesn’t make sense to still be paying that much for a player to play for another club.
If the Wests Tigers want rid of Mbye however, they’re probably going to have to chip in at least half but that half that they free up from the deal could go a long way to a marquee signing down the track.
With Alex Seyfarth and Thomas Mikaele hopefully resigning and Mose Mbye joining the Dragons, the Tigers should still have salary cap space to strengthen the squad for next year.
Here is my list of players they should target:
News has broken that after being unable to agree with the Knights, Connor Watson has hit the open market.
If the Tigers can get a fair chunk of Mbye’s salary off their books, it’s an absolute no-brainer that they go hard for Watson next season.
The Knights utility is an absolute live-wire off the bench and can play anywhere in the spin including Lock.
There have been a few rumors that Michael Maguire rates Watson and after missing out on TPJ and Dale Finucane, the Tigers should have the cap space to make a deal happen.
Watson at Lock for the Tigers would finally bring a modern-day player to the team who can ball-play and link with the halves from the middle of the field.
The new rules have also made a smaller player with great leg drive and speed off the mark in the ruck considerably more valuable and since the Tigers have a lot of bigger forwards in the squad at the moment, someone with Watson’s attributes could add a point of variation to the teams attack.
On top of this Watson would replace Mbye as the Utility player in the team who can cover multiple positions if asked to.
At this point in the season, chasing someone like Watson is a no-brainer.
The Centre position is the name of the game for the Tigers in terms of which position they should focus recruitment on going into next season.
With Adam Doueihi moving back into the Halves, Tommy Talau struggling to defend out wide, and the club reportedly not bringing back James Roberts and BJ Leilua, it can be argued that both Centre positions are up for grabs next season.
Although Oliver Gildart is an English international, he’s also coming off a serious injury.
When you combine this with the fact that not many Backs make the transition from Super League to NRL, it’s probably safe to say that Gildart isn’t a walk-up starter for 2022.
Someone like Harley Smith-Shields (pictured above) fits the mold of a player that the Tigers have had success with recently.
Similar to someone like Daine Laurie or Stefano Utoikamanu, Smith-Shields has found himself following behind in the pecking order of outside backs at Canberra but still has the potential to be a really good player in the NRL.
Although his main position is Centre, the young Canberra Outside back found himself on the Wing for his first game coming back from injury in 2021 and looked solid running for over 150 meters and helping to make a match-winning tackle on Maika Sivo.
If the Tigers were to sign Smith-Shields, he would be a smokey for the starting side in round 1.
As a player comparison, Harley Smith-Shields reminds of me a smaller version of Nic Cotric because his build makes him such a powerful ball runner.
Something that the Tigers could use coming out of yardage.
Again, this signing to me makes a lot of sense for both parties because it fills a position of need for the club on what one would assume to be a team-friendly deal and it also provides a great path to first grade for Smith-Shields.
The Penrith Panthers have built a reputation for being the best club at developing local talent into NRL superstars and I do not doubt that Sunia Turuva is next on that list.
Turuva has been amazing in the NSW Cup this year, playing both Centre and Fullback and averaging 150 running meters a game.
If I was the Tigers recruitment, I would honestly be putting pressure on Penrith who seems to have cap pressure at the moment and offering Turuvu a long-term contract with the club.
This signing is more of a pipe dream but since Penrith already has so many stars on decent coin, one could make the argument that a good offer and the promise of first grade could be enough to steal the young outside back from the Panthers.
If the Tigers have proven one thing in recent seasons, it’s no doubt that young players are being allowed to break into first grade at the club.
Harry Grant won rookie of the year in 2020 and Daine Laurie is also in contention this year. This fact should surely be a selling point for any young player the club is targeting.
Egan Butcher and the Wests Tigers have been linked for a while now and it makes sense. The Roosters backrower while having made his first-grade debut for the Roosters this year has had his development stalled by the impressive log jam of backrowers at the Tri-Colors.
A player with big wraps coming through the Juniors, Butcher still has the potential to be a signing with high upside for the Tigers in a position that they don’t have that much depth in.
Although Butcher’s stats in NSW Cup haven’t jumped out of the page this year, his transition to first-grade off the bench has looked more promising and could potentially replace Luke Garner in the Backrow going into 2022.
In a similar mold to Connor Watson, Ethan Bullemor is a great example of a smaller player who can provide leg drive and speed off the mark in the middle of the field at Lock.
Although Bullemor isn’t off-contract until the end of 2022, I added the young forward to the list because he’s not in the Broncos’ best 17 at the moment which means that he might become available to sign if he wants more minutes in first grade.
It’s also interesting to note that the Tigers tried to sign Bullemor last time he was off-contract and as a Lock, the Queenslander would add a lot to the Tigers pack in 2022.
Image: Canberra Times