The 2020 NRL season is fast approaching beginning with the NRL Nines starting in Perth on the 14thof February.
Michael Maguire has named a strong squad especially in terms of outside backs with many of the starting first graders from last year being named to take part in the competition.
Maguire has also selected some dynamic young forwards and playmakers which should make Wests Tigers fans excited about the tournament given the success that Madge has had in the Nines format in the past.
Wests Tigers 2020 Perth Nines Squad
1. Corey Thompson
2. David Nofoaluma
3. Robert Jennings
4. Moses Mbye (capt.)
5. Michael Chee Kam
6. Billy Walters
7. Jock Madden
8. Thomas Mikaele
9. Tommy Talau
10. Joseph Ratuvakacereivalu
11. Luciano Leilua
12. Luke Garner
13. Chris McQueen
14. Sam McIntyre
15. Paul Momirovski
16. Alex Seyfarth
17. Pat Richards
18. Matheson Johns
So here are my top 5 reactions to the team that has been named.
The Nines will have a major impact on who will start in the outside backs for round 1.
Minus Adam Doueihi and BJ Leilua, all the contenders for the 1 to 5 positions have been named to play in the Nines.
Corey Thompson, David Nofoaluma, Moses Mbye, Robert Jennings, Tommy Talau and Paul Momirovski will all take place in the 9’s and showcase why they deserve to start against the Dragons in round 1.
With Doueihi and Leilua will most likely play at fullback and Centre respectively, the remaining positions up for grabs include two Wing spots and another Centre position.
It appears from the team that has been named that Madge is still undecided on his starting backline so Wests Tigers fans should be excited to see some healthy competition as the outside backs put their best foot forward this weekend in an effort to land a starting spot.
With an experienced backline being named, I’m tipping the Tigers to do quite well this year out wide against other teams that have opted to send younger outside backs to Perth.
Madge has named a dynamic and mobile forward pack.
It seems that Maguire has opted for youth and mobility in regards to the forwards he has selected with Thomas Mikaele the only middle forward from last year’s First Grade team to be selected.
Going up against bigger and more experienced forwards from other teams might be a challenge for the Tigers in this competition if the team fails to complete their sets.
However, on the flip side, the mobility of the forwards could trouble teams if possession favors the Tigers.
With many players from last year’s forward pack being rested, the Nines is a great opportunity for people such as Chris McQueen and Sam McIntyre to demonstrate that they can do a job against NRL level talent.
I’m also tipping Alex Seyfarth to have a really big tournament after an impressive season playing lock in the NSW Cup for the Magpies.
The local junior has a real chance to cement a debut this season as his size, aggression and mobility make him a perfect candidate for the Lock position which I hope he showcases in the Nines competition.
The Nines is a massive opportunity for Talau and Madden to prove themselves against NRL level talent.
I’m a very big advocate for NRL teams giving an opportunity to their young guns in the Nines as the competition places young inexperienced players against elite talent in an atmosphere that is similar in terms of intensity and speed to first grade.
Fans and clubs can see first-hand if their young players have the potential to make the transition to first grade with NRL superstars such as Latrell Mitchell and James Tedesco lighting up the Nines before going onto to dominate the NRL.
I think that success in Perth will provide young guns such as Jock Madden and Tommy Talau with the confidence and experience needed to have successful seasons in 2020.
It appears that Madden, along with Billy Walters, will act as the primary playmakers in the team and I’m extremely hopeful that Tigers fans will get to see why I believe the young Halfback has the potential to replace Benji Marshall in the 6 Jumper.
Having based his game off Cooper Cronk, watch out for Madden’s impressive kicking game this weekend.
The Nines Tournament is also a great opportunity for Tommy Talau to showcase his talent in a number of positions. Although used exclusively as a Centre last year, Talau’s versatility will be a massive boost for the Tigers in the Nines as his ability to create for others and run the ball will make him a nightmare to defend.
Talau impressed many in the SG Ball competition as well as in the Australian Schoolboys with his performances in the number 6 position and could be a position he fills for the Tigers in the future.
Talau’s impressive all-round skills and physical attributes make him perfect for the 9’s format which is why he’s my tip for player to watch this weekend.
I’m tipping Garner, Mikaele and Leilua to start 2020 hitting the ground running.
Critics have labeled the Tigers forward pack as inexperienced going into the 2020 season and while surface-level statistics such as games played support this argument, I’m expecting a few players to play beyond their years this season and establish themselves as elite NRL talent starting at the Nines.
These players include Luke Garner, Thomas Mikaele and Luciano Leilua and although lacking first-grade caps, all are primed for big seasons.
Having transitioned into the back row from the outside backs, Luke Garner will excel in the Nines if given the opportunity with his ability to break the line with his line running and athletics in broken play.
Having watched Samoa participate in the World Cup Nines, I’m also very excited to observe Luciano Leilua and see how Maguire intends to use the young forwards ball-playing ability which in my opinion has the potential to be elite in the competition this season which fans will hopefully get to see in Perth.
I have high hopes that Mikaele will transition from an impact bench player to a starting forward that averages more than 100 metres per game. I think the young forward’s performances in the Nines will provide Tigers fans with what they should expect from Mikaele going into the season.
If the ex-Keebra Park student can show his barnstorming running potential and ability to offload in the Nines, Tigers fans should be excited as the Tigers need improvement from their young forward pack this season if they are to make the 8.
Who is going to play in the Hooker position?
From the team sheet, it isn’t clear who is going to predominantly play hooker in the tournament, however, I expect Mbye and Walters to share the load. With the swap deal between the Tigers and Storm for Harry Grant looking to be in doubt, the Nines could be a valuable experiment for Michael Maguire to see how Mbye and Walters perform in the number 9 jersey so expect the two to share the minutes.
If Walters shifts to Hooker while Mbye is on the bench, expect Talau to slot into the Five-Eight position along Madden in the Halves.
The Wests Tigers are in Pool 3 along with the Canberra Raiders, Gold Coast Titans and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
While the Raiders have listed a fairly inexperienced roster for the weekend, the Titans and Rabbitohs have named a lot of their star players to travel to Perth so the Tigers will need to start well and execute a high completion rate if they are to have any chance of getting past the group stage.
Having named a host of strong outside backs, I think the Tigers have a good chance of beating the other teams in their group. In past Nines tournaments, the Tigers have been guilty of starting slowly which due to how short the games are resulted in the team losing despite still playing well in patches.
Like every other team, the Tigers must start fast and control the errors they make if they want to win. I’m tipping the Bunnies to finish first in the group with the Tigers grabbing the second spot after beating the Raiders and Titans.