9th place Tigers: Teething or Toothless?

A 26-24 loss to South Sydney has ruled the Tigers out of finals contention with two rounds to play and sunk the slim chance they had of sneaking into the top 8.

While the Thursday night comeback was impressive, as too their attacking prowess, Michael ‘Madge’ Maguire hasn’t been able to turn the Tigers fortunes around and instil the hard edge they desperately need.

With the Tigers not making the finals since 2011 and finishing 9th three times in four years, the question has to be asked whether they are teething or toothless.

They have had their fair share of good and bad times throughout 2020, with 9th place shaping up as a fair representation of their season.

They are the 6th best attacking team in the league but defensively can be found wanting, with Madge dropping several players throughout the year to set defensive standards.

When you take a look through their squad, there is a mix of quality first graders, emerging talent and Tigers’ stalwarts. You can look at their roster and think it is good, average or ugly, and an argument can be made for each.

The Tigers have experienced campaigners in their side including Chris Lawrence and Benji Marshall who won’t be in the orange and black next season, as too their breakout star Harry Grant who looks set to return to the Storm after an incredible first year in the NRL.

A standout of the year has been David Nofoaluma, who with two rounds remaining is three tries clear and set to be named the NRL’s leading try scorer for 2020. He is also second in the league for tackle breaks behind Roosters superstar James Tedesco.

Experienced players Russell Packer and Josh Reynolds have not lived up to expectations in their time at the Tigers, while Luke Brooks is struggling to become the elite halfback the Tigers need after 7 seasons and 147 games.

They have blooded some great young talent including Billy Walters, Jacob Liddle and Alex Twal in recent years, while bringing in damaging former Raiders centre Joey Leulia, the reigning Dally M centre of the year and former Rabbitohs outside back Adam Doueihi.

It has been rumoured that James Tamou could make a move to the club, and while he is a good forward with great leadership skills, I am not convinced he could help push the rest of the group up a gear to make finals footy.

Looking to the future, it is hard to see any drastic change in their ladder position, unless some of these young Tigers players start to make their mark on the NRL. They also need their senior players to stand up, none more so than Brooks.

After seven seasons, it is time for him to take control.

While it is important to note he has continued to develop in recent time, he hasn’t quite got that killer instinct compared to elite halves like Luke Keary, or the class and polish of even younger Panthers star Nathan Cleary.

Luke Brooks definitely has the talent, he has the ability, but like the rest of the Tigers team, seems to lack that killer instinct and fight to take their game to the next level.

Again, my question arises whether Brooks is still teething or quite frankly, toothless.

He took a step closer to proving his doubters wrong on Thursday night, throwing hands at Dane Gagai after the Souths winger threw the footy at his head.

This is the fight that if you are a Tigers fan, you want to see. You want to see your halfback with a bit of niggle, standing up to the opposition and putting himself in the firing line. You want him to want that pressure, stand up and deliver.

On a side note, how good was bringing back a bit of biff and seeing a punch in a fight. If he carries that hunger into the future, he could prove some of his critics wrong and help lead the Tigers into the top 8 next year.


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