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Can the Wests Tigers break their excruciating Finals drought in 2024?

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Julia Gillard was the prime minister back in 2011 – the last time the Wests Tigers played football into September – but could that drought come to an end in 2024?

Finals have seemed even more elusive than a permanent head coach for the Tigers, for over a decade; the club’s now up to twelve final-less seasons in a row.

This dry spell is currently the longest active drought in the league and has seen them become somewhat the laughing stock of the NRL.

Things just might be on the mend, though, after an active 24 months of recruitment; signing premiership winners, international stars and club legends to scrape the once proud club off the bottom of the ladder.

And while the 2023 NRL season looked promising, things didn’t improve much. So can 2024 look any different? That’s the million dollar question.

The Wests Tigers’ painful finals drought

12 years

This joint-venture club hasn’t made the top eight since 2011; it’s one of the lengthiest active droughts in Australian sport. Of major Aussie leagues, only the Western Force in Super rugby have a longer active drought (16 years), while the Gold Coast Suns’ is on par with the Tigers, entering year 13.

The Suns, in the AFL, are one of the league’s newest teams — they’ve never made finals. The Tigers have certainly struggled for consistency since becoming a joint venture in the late-90’s. Few mergers have worked for sustained periods in Australian sport.

Reviewing more pain last season

The Wests Tigers were arguably the most proactive team in the free agency market before the 2023 season, gaining nine new players for their push to end their finals drought. But it was a season that only provided fleeting moments, before attrition really set in.

Topping the new recruits list was three-time premiership winner and Origin representative hooker Api Koroisau who was appointed captain virtually on arrival. It was slightly controversial; he had – not that long before – insinuated publicly that he wasn’t going to win a premiership after leaving Penrith for the Tigers.

Tim Sheens was brought in as the club’s ‘saviour’, but he didn’t even survive the season. The two-year succession plan lasted less than 12 months — Benji Marshall was propelled into the starting gig quicker than expected.

Fresh hope

But 2024 provides legitimately fresh optimism; the front office – at board level – has undertaken a major clean out. It was a group of out-of-touch executives ultimately holding the team back. Let’s see what fresh faces provide and whether the lessons of years gone past can bring meaningful on-field change.

Who is the Wests Tigers’ new head coach?

Benji Marshall

Since 2011, the last time the Tigers made the post-season, they have had NINE different coaches and none of them have been able to pull the club out of its current rut.

But Marshall feels different — he’s a club legend and far more in tune with modern football than former chief Sheens. Benji played in the halves in the Tigers last premiership season, 2005, when Sheens himself was coaching the group and at the top of his game.

Wests Tigers, benji marshall, tim sheens
Benji Marshall (left) takes over from Tim Sheens (right).

Wests Tigers’ 2024 recruits

The names aren’t as big as last year’s. But it’s fair to expect the crop from 12 months ago to lift — more familiarity and playing under a coach with a modern plan.

Handy halves depth has been brought in, though, with Aiden Sezer (from the Leeds Rhinos) and Dragons recruit Jayden Sullivan joining the mix. One of the club’s key focuses will be figuring out the long-term halves partner of next year’s hot recruit, Jarome Luai.

The Tigers have also brought in two Fainu brothers, Latu and Samuela, both from the Sea Eagles. They’re young; have low expectations for their impact in 2024. But they’re going to be very handy players further down the track.

Tigers’ 2023 recruits

Two former Dally M second rowers in Isaiah Papali’i and John Bateman headlined last year’s list, along with enforcer David Klemmer. The Tigers also bolstered their wing stocks signing Charlie Staines from the Panthers and recovering David Nofoaluma after loaning him to the Melbourne Storm for the end of the 2022 season.

jarome luai
Panthers star Jarome Luai headlines 2025 recruitment. Perhaps THAT is the year.

Wests Tigers’ 2023 season

The Wests Tigers’ 2023 season was yet more heartache for loyal fans; a second consecutive wooden spoon campaign.

They won four games and lost 18, with a -224 points differential. It took until Round 9 for the side to pick up its first victory — a shock 12-8 win over eventual premiers Penrith. They enjoyed a huge 66-18 win over the Cowboys in Round 12, but in true Tigers fashion copped a 74-0 drubbing in the return fixture in North Queensland; undoubtedly the low point.

They’re not expected – or tipped – to reach the finals this season. It looks as though their finals drought will lengthen. But improvement can be expected; the team, on paper, looks decent.

It will come down to whether coach Benji Marshall is ready for the top job — he hasn’t had the benefit of a long apprenticeship, so he’s in the deep end. But it’s fair to expect the Tigers to look like a more organised outfit this season and grow as the year matures.

Stay patient, Tigers fans.

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