The Tigers were one of the big improvers in 2004 but it still wasn�t enough to secure a first finals berth for the joint venture club.
While 10 victories for the season may have been seen as a reasonable achievement at the start of the season, there was a feeling of an opportunity lost when the Tigers faltered in the final three games of the season. The Tigers only had to win one of their remaining three matches, but they simply weren�t good enough. The most disappointing of these losses was a 12-24 loss to the Cowboys who were also trying to make the finals for the first time. History shows the Cowboys finished 7th and then made it all the way to the Preliminary Final, giving Tigers fans a feeling of what might have been had they just managed to squeeze their way in to the eight.
The Tigers had their fair share of bad luck and bad calls going against them, which they believe cost them valuable competition points. The Tigers lost to South Sydney in a golden point match in Round 2, where timekeeping officials forgot to enforce a change of ends 5 minutes into the extra period. There was also the Broncos 14th man incident in a match against the Tigers, with the 14th man Corey Parker scoring a try at a crucial time in the match. Later in the season the Tigers were unlucky to lose to the Bulldogs by four points, when a blatant Matt Utai knock on went unnoticed by the sideline officials and the Bulldogs scored a minute later.
The Tigers were unlucky on several occasions, but inept displays against big guns the Dragons (0-50) and the Roosters (0-56) in consecutive weeks, showed that the team is still a long way from being a serious premiership force.
There were still plenty of positives to take from the season, including:
� The Wests Tigers registered their two biggest ever victories when they thrashed an inept New Zealand Warriors outfit 50-4 in Wellington and turned on some rare attacking flair while wearing their old Balmain strip, smashing Souths 56-6 at Leichhardt.
� The Tigers settled on a regular halfback in off season purchase Scott Prince. Prince represented Queensland in the Number 7 jersey and was one of the Maroons better performers.
� The experience and talent of the likes of Brett Hodgson, Jason Moodie & Scott Sattler helped the team�s consistency compared to previous seasons
� Youngsters such as Prop Bryce Gibbs, Back Rower Bronson Harrison and Centre Dene Halatau are players of the future. Prodigious talent Benji Marshall had his season cut short due to a shoulder injury.
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Fullback Brett Hodgson got his career back on track after an unhappy 2003 at Parramatta. Hodgson continues to earn praise for his whole hearted performances. Despite his slight build he puts his body on the line when retrieving kicks, and injects himself into the attack at the right time.
PREDICTION FOR 2005: The likes of Sattler, Senter, Buettner, Moodie and Mears have all retired, leaving the Tigers with an inexperienced squad for 2005. Paul Whatuira and Matt Rieck are the only signings with regular first grade experience. After missing out on the big names on the player market, Coach Tim Sheens has had to sign youngsters and a couple of rugby recruits instead. Unfortunately for Tigers fans I think they�ll rue the club�s failure to make the eight in 2004 even more because I can�t see them making it next year.
Match Records 2004 ROUND OPPONENT VENUE RESULT SCORE 1 Cronulla Sharks Telstra Stadium WIN 12-6 2 South Sydney Rabbitohs Aussie Stadium LOSS 16-17 3 Brisbane Broncos Campbelltown Stadium LOSS 24-32 4 North Queensland Cowboys Dairy Farmers Stadium WIN 18-8 5 St.George-Illawarra Dragons Telstra Stadium LOSS 10-39 6 BYE
7 Manly Sea Eagles Leichhardt Oval WIN 30-22 8 Penrith Panthers Penrith Stadium LOSS 20-22 9 Sydney Roosters Aussie Stadium LOSS 0-22 10 Canberra Raiders Campbelltown Stadium WIN 26-12 11 Bulldogs Express Advocate Stadium WIN 30-26 12 Parramatta Eels Leichhardt Oval WIN 33-6 13 Melbourne Storm Olympic Park LOSS 24-32 14 New Zealand Warriors Westpac Trust Stadium WIN 50-4 15 St.George-Illawarra Dragons Oki Jubilee Stadium LOSS 0-50 16 Sydney Roosters Campbelltown Stadium LOSS 0-56 17 Canberra Raiders Canberra Stadium LOSS 24-32 18 Manly Sea Eagles Brookvale Oval LOSS 18-26 19 Melbourne Storm Leichhardt Oval WIN 32-18 20 Bulldogs Campbelltown Stadium LOSS 20-24 21 Parramatta Eels Parramatta Stadium WIN 18-2 22 South Sydney Rabbitohs Leichhardt Oval WIN 56-6 23 BYE
24 Brisbane Broncos Suncorp Stadium LOSS 20-24 25 North Queensland Cowboys Campbelltown Stadium LOSS 12-24 26 Newcastle Energy Australia Stadium LOSS 16-26 10 WINS, 14 LOSSES. FOR: 509 AGAINST: 534 POSITION: 9TH
Wests Tigers � 2005 Player Movement
Gains: Paul Whatuira (Panthers), Matthew Rieck (Sharks), Mark Meredith (Rabbitohs), Nick Kouparitsas (Raiders), Kosta Kouparitsas (Raiders), Tim McGann (Easts rugby), Jarrod Saffy (Sydney Uni rugby), Matt Mclay (Raiders), Aaron Mercer (Roosters), Sam Moa (Keebra Park HS), Rangi Chase (Keebra Park HS), Matt Jobson (Warriors).
Losses: Luke Covell (Sharks), Scott Sattler (retired), Darren Senter (retired), Michael Buettner (retired), Gray Viane (St Helens), Luke Isaaka (Leigh), Jason Moodie (retired), Robert Mears (retired).
By Michael Allen � Freelance Journalist