A Shallow Dive into the 2022 Wests Tigers

Your men’s Wests Tigers finished the 2022 season in last place with a frozen meat pie of a record (4-20) and a points difference of -327. The Tigers scored the fewest points in the NRL at 14.7 per game, the worst effort since the 1999 Magpies and 1999 Tigers both failed to clear that mark. They were the second worst team defensively, improving 1.5 points per game on last year. Had Wests performed at their Pythagorean expectation, they would’ve finished with 5.4 wins. Round that up to six and their points difference would’ve landed the Warriors in last place. Oh well.

The Wests Tigers will join the NRLW next year.

The Victory Lap

From the pre-season deep dive:

The Tigers continue to limp along, maddeningly finishing in the third quarter of the ladder season after season. If the club were to bottom out, a la the spoon winning Broncos and Bulldogs, it would at least give someone the mandate to clean house and bring in some fresh expertise. Then again, maybe it’s better to be in the purgatory forever than face the nauseating depths of a three win season …

In the time that I’ve been doing these write-ups, I’ve always expected the Tigers to fail disastrously and to date, they haven’t. Wests would often defy the projections and take a terrible team to ninth place. Last year, the opposite happened and a ninth place projection turned into an insipid thirteenth place finish. My question is whether that represents a break… or an aberration. The former would represent a spoon and the latter would see a soaring return to just missing the finals.

Turns out it was the former.

What happened

The Tigers stank. They didn’t have to, as is often the case and should be an endless source of frustration to their fans, but they did. There’s two phases to the season. The first phase was under the increasingly untenable eye of Michael Maguire. When he was sacked on June 7 after round 13, the Tigers were thirteenth and 3-9 / -118 points difference.

The second phase was under the lame duck candidacy of Mick Potter Brett Kimmorley, who managed to engineer one more win with a 1-11 record / -209 and ended with the joint venture’s first wooden spoon. That one win came against the Broncos, right as they turned to back into pumpkins, and the Tigers looked like they’d finally cracked the code (drop Luke Brooks, give the ball to Jackson Hastings, play a team who have gone on holidays six weeks early), after an absolute robbery in Townsville the previous week.

There’s not much else to take away from this season. They probably could have won more games if they’d done some more things right and gotten a bit luckier but they didn’t. Then again, not much changes the outcome of 72-6. The Tigers should burn the tape and agree to never watch it again.

But, as happens with a Sydney club in dire straits, the real action was off the field.

That is just the absolute wildest shit and it barely rated a mention in the media. Lee Hagipantelis should have resigned the next day. Fortunately, a wooden spoon is a sign that the club has absolutely hit rock bottom as the on-field results reflect the off-field inability to run a football club. Generally speaking, a metaphorical broom is then put through various offices until a fresh start can be achieved and then the run upwards begins.

Funnily enough, the fresh start was signed up before the Tigers hit rock bottom, so Pascoe, Haginpantelis and co will remain in their positions for a little while yet as they ride the optimism around the arrivals of Api Koroisau and Isaiah Papalii. Then:

May as well crack out the CRISPR, take the chaos, splice it directly into nuclease and jam it right into the double helix of the club’s DNA. What an organisation.

There’s always next year

Michael Maguire is gone and probably a year too late. He will be replaced by a nostalgic thought bubble in the human form of Tim Sheens, with padawan Benji Marshall serving as apprentice for the transition from former player media commentator to head coach. Will it work? Who the fuck knows!

A spine of Laurie, Hastings, Koroisau and Doueihi should be pretty handy. There’s some other good players on the pitch, somewhat offset by the wasted cap space from previous contracts and that millstone may well weigh around the Tigers’ necks forever as they try to lift themselves out of purgatory. The coaching is a giant question mark and it would not surprise me to see the Tigers or finish in the lower half of the top eight or in bottom four again.

Anyone telling you that they know how this is going to go is a madman and probably a Tigers board member.

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