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Wests Tigers

The Wests Tigers are a professional rugby league football club in the National Rugby League (NRL), the premier rugby league competition in Australasia. The Tigers are currently coached by Tim Sheens and captained by Brett Hodgson.

The Tigers were admitted in 2000 to the NRL competition after the merging of two Sydney based clubs: the Balmain Tigers and the Western Suburbs Magpies. Their maiden premiership was won in 2005. The tigers have good youngsters coming through including local brothers the Moltzens, Tim and Dean

Although this is the Wests Tigers' only NRL premiership to date, the club has a heritage of eleven premierships won by Balmain and four by Western Suburbs. When the clubs' individual histories are considered, the Wests Tigers have the second most successful history with a combined tally of sixteen premierships. The Tigers also won the World Club Sevens in 2004.

History

Background

The game of rugby league began in 1908 as the New South Wales Rugby League premiership (NSWRL) which had nine teams from the Sydney, Australia area. Two of those teams were clubs based in Balmain and the Western Suburbs. The Balmain club, who later adopted a Tiger as their emblem, in their tenure in the NSWRL won eleven premierships in twenty grand finals and was one of the forces in the NSWRL competition. However their last premiership success was in 1969 and in the 1990s with many new clubs being established, there was pressure on clubs to perform to survive in the first grade competition in Australia.

The Westerns Suburbs club was less successful, only winning four premierships in twelve grand finals over the tenure of the NSWRL competition. The Western Suburbs Magpies, like the Balmain Tigers, had a dismal 1990s winning rate, and again there was pressure on the foundation clubs to perform. The NSWRL competition was replaced by the Australian Rugby League competition (ARL) in 1995 due to the expansion of rugby league within Australia.

With a media driven rival competition being set up, the pressure for clubs to survive and preserve their short-term future. Both the Magpies and the Tigers signed with the ARL whereas eight clubs of the 1995 ARL competition signed with the rival Super League competition for 1997. In 1998, the ARL and Super League were unified into a National Rugby League (NRL) competition. As part of the deal with the ARL and Super League, the NRL competition would reduce down to fourteen teams in 2000 from the twenty two that had competition in both competitions in 1997. With the addition of a team in 1998, this meant that nine teams would be demised before the 2000 season.

Foundation

With the NRL offering guaranteed entrance into the 2000 competition and $AU6 million funding for clubs that merged together, many clubs that were struggling to compete were negotiating to merge. Balmain had garnered interest to merge with the Parramatta Eels and Gold Coast Chargers while Western Suburbs had talked with the Canterbury Bulldogs and Penrith Panthers. Both Balmain and Western Suburbs felt that those offers were seen more as takeovers of their clubs rather than mergers. By June 1999, both club’s boards had unanimously voted to merge with each other to make a competitive entity.

Each club took a 50% share in the club which would be known as the Wests Tigers. Due to Western Suburbs record breaking dismal season in 1999, they supplied just six of the twenty five players to the new joint venture. However the club’s board would garner two members from each club with a chairman which rotated between foundation clubs each year. Because the playing roster was supplied mostly by Balmain, the chairman and chief executive officer was supplied by Western Suburbs to even the deal.

Balmain coach Wayne Pearce was the initial coach of the Wests Tigers and new recruit Jarrod McCracken was named captain. A large crowd attended the first trial match played by the team. Before the first round the Tigers were controversially denied a place in the double header at Stadium Australia. The debut match for the side was therefore held at Campelltown where after leading 18-6 the side snatched a 24-all draw after falling behind late in the game.

The Tigers surprised many by maintaining a high place on the ladder for most of the year (often in second place). Losses to the Penrith Panthers (after leading 31-8) and in the snow against the Canberra Raiders combined with injuries to key players saw the Tigers slide out of the top eight. The loss of captain Jarrod McCracken from a spear tackle against Melbourne was a crucial blow.

Building towards success

2001 was a bitter year for the joint venture club, including off-field incidents. After Wayne Pearce announced he would no longer coach the team, Terry Lamb was appointed to the position. This was a controversial selection because of animosity from Balmain supporters due to an incident involving Ellery Hanley in the 1988 Grand Final (see Terry Lamb entry for more information).

Early in the season, key players Craig Field and Kevin McGuinness tested positive to cocaine and received long suspensions. Field was the team's halfback and playmaker whilst McGuinness was a leading try scorer for the club.

Later in the season another big name player was suspended: John Hopoate earned world wide notoriety when he was charged with inserting his finger into the anus (pushing the players' shorts) of opposition players. Hopoate quit the club and received a long suspension. Lamb was criticised for seeming to condone the activity.

During the season the club announced Terry Lamb would not have his contract renewed. The side struggled near the foot of the ladder and only a large victory over Souths moved them clear of the wooden spoon position.

The coaching job for 2003 was offered to (and rejected by) both Craig Bellamy and Ian Millward before Tim Sheens was selected. The selection was by no means seen as a positive move by the media as Sheens' most recent coaching stint had seen him sacked by the North Queensland Cowboys.

The 2003 season was notable for the emergence of new young players through the team as the club moved away from the era of big names and big money signings and focused on developing junior talent. Most notably Benji Marshall, then a schoolboy prodigy with no senior league experience, made his debut against the Newcastle Knights.

The Tigers improved greatly in 2004 aided by signings of players such as Brett Hodgson and Pat Richards who began to blend well with the younger players emerging as talents. The Tigers narrowly missed the playoffs after losing their final three games when a single victory would have guaranteed finals football for the first time.

Premiership success

2005 was the Wests Tigers best season yet, as they not only made it to the finals for the first time, but also reached the top four in the round robin part of the competition, setting crowd attendance records at three different grounds: Campbelltown Stadium (20,527), Telstra Stadium (29,542) and Leichhardt Oval (22,877).

After a slow start, bookmakers rated the Tigers a 150-1 chance to win the premiership. However the club emerged from the bottom half of the table to win a club record eight in a row before finishing fourth. The team developed a reputation as a flamboyant attacking side who played at a rapid pace to compensate a lack of forward size.

The Tigers played their first ever final as a joint venture club at Telstra Stadium against North Queensland Cowboys. Backed by a passionate crowd the team won 50-6. They then beat the Brisbane Broncos 34-6 and premiership favourites St George Illawarra Dragons 20-12 to book a spot against the Cowboys.

Based on their winning form (they had won 11 of their last 13) and their big win over the Cowboys in the opening finals game, the Wests Tigers were rated favourites to win the 2005 grand final. After a slow start, Bryce Gibbs and Pat Richards scored tries to give the Tigers a 12-6 lead. The Richards try has been called one of the all time great Grand Final tries. The try was started by five-eighth Benji Marshall, who received the ball from Brett Hodgson 98 metres from the opposition tryline. He beat Cowboys five-eighth Johnathan Thurston and Matt Sing. Marshall then ran 60 metres, only to be caught by Cowboys fullback Matt Bowen. He made a flick pass to Pat Richards, who then fended off Rod Jensen to score.

In the second half the Tigers gained control with tries to Anthony Laffranchi and Daniel Fitzhenry. After withstanding a Cowboys fightback, a Todd Payten try on full time sealed a 30-16 win. Captain Scott Prince was awarded the Clive Churchill Medal for 2005.

The premiership victory meant that the club joined an exclusive group that won premierships in their first finals appearance, which had not been achieved in almost 100 years. The group also includes Souths in 1908 and Newtown in 1910.

and as of 2008 they are the only side to have never lost a single finals match. They have won 4 from 4

Grand final hangover

Following the premiership win several key players left the club. From the grand final team, Mark O'Neill, and Pat Richards signed with English clubs(Leeds Rhinos and Wigan Warriors respectivley) . New signings included Jamaal Lolesi (Bulldogs), Keith Galloway (Cronulla Sharks) and Ryan O'Hara (Canberra Raiders).

As defending premiers, the Tigers began the season by travelling to England to play English Super League champions the Bradford Bulls. Missing many of their star players, the Tigers tried hard but were eventually beaten 10-30. After a come from behind win over competition heavyweights St George-Illawarra, the team struggled with injuries to key players. Most notably Benji Marshall and Brett Hodgson missed large portions of the season. The team suffered a number of narrow losses late in games and also two golden point (extra time) matches in controversial circumstances.

The Tigers narrowly missed the finals and the chance to defend their title. One highlight of the season was the debut of several players including Chris Lawrence and the emergence of up and coming players such as Dean Collis. Brett Hodgson played for the New South Wales team in the interstate State of Origin series in all three games.

Joining the club for the 2007 season was John Morris (ex Parramatta Eels) to replace Scott Prince who signed with the Gold Coast Titans. Other players to leave at the end of the 2006 season were John Skandalis, Anthony Laffranchi and Shane Elford - all members of the 2005 grand final team.

The Tigers had a bad start to the season losing their opening four games by narrow margins. They then had a six game winning streak to move into the top four. The Tigers' five-eighth Benji Marshall and full-back Brett Hodgson missed the majority of the season with injuries.

The Wests Tigers' ended their attempt at a finals berth and finished the season on a disappointing loss to the Newcastle Knights, 26–24 at the then-Telstra Stadium.

In February 2008, the Tigers announced the extension of Benji Marshall's contract by one year, to the end of 2009. They also announced the signing of Gareth Ellis, the Leeds Rhinos second-rower and international representative, to a three-year deal commencing in 2009.

The Tigers opened the season with a round 1 win over the St George Illawarra Dragons, 24–16. Benji Marshall was injured in the first few minutes of the match with a knee ligament tear.

For more information on the Wests Tigers current season, see Wests Tigers 2008.

Stadium

The joint venture draws supporters from the historic bases of Balmain and Western Suburbs. Because they are a joint venture the basic structure of the former teams remains in place including their respective leagues clubs. The Balmain Leagues Club is based in Rozelle. The Western Suburbs Magpies have two leagues clubs, one representing their former inner-city base Ashfield, and the other established when they relocated to the outer west in the 1980s Campbelltown.

The Tigers are based at Concord Oval for training and administrative purposes but are historically linked to the inner-west of Sydney and the Campbelltown region in Sydney's outer-west.

The Tigers do not have a single home but play at a number of grounds each year. Home games are split between traditional games played at the former home grounds of Balmain and Western Suburbs and financial games played at grounds that offer incentives to play there. Traditional home games are played at Campbelltown Sports Stadium and Leichhardt Oval, the former home grounds of Wests and Balmain respectively. The grounds are around 50km apart and attract different supporter bases. Marquee home games are mostly played at ANZ Stadium, the former Olympic Stadium used for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. From 2004 until 2006, a "home game" was played in Christchurch against the Auckland based New Zealand Warriors. This agreement was not renewed for 2007 and in that year a game was played at Bluetongue Stadium in Gosford against Melbourne Storm. In 2008, one home game will be played at the Sydney Cricket Ground as part of the Centenary of Rugby League celebrations.

Return to Redfern

Wests Tigers will play a pre-season match at Redfern Oval against the South Sydney Rabbitohs on Sunday the 8th February 2009. The capacity of the stadium is only aroung the 5,000 mark, so the match is for members only.

Colours

The club's name and logo are a combination of the two partners. The uniform colours are a combination of the black and white of the Western Suburbs Magpies uniform and the black and orange from the Balmain Tigers uniform.

Current Squad

First-grade squad for 2008 at 3 August, 2008

Season statistics

Current 7 September, 2008
Season Pos Pld W D L B F A width="30"
/-
Pts Notes Crowd*
2000 10th 26 11 2 13 N/A 519 642 -123 24 12,124
2001 12th 26 9 1 16 N/A 474 746 -272 19 9,294
2002 13th 24 7 0 17 2 498 642 -144 18 10,478
2003 13th 24 7 0 17 2 470 598 -128 18 11,995
2004 9th 24 10 0 14 2 509 534 -25 24 16,597
2005 4th 24 14 0 10 2 676 575 101 32 Premiers
Wests Tigers 2005
19,379
2006 11th 24 10 0 14 2 490 565 -75 24 Wests Tigers 2006 19,266
2007 9th 24 11 0 13 1 541 561 -20 24 Wests Tigers 2007 16,961
2008 10th 24 11 0 13 2 528 560 -32 26 Wests Tigers 2008 16,452

* Average home crowd

Player Records

Current 7 September, 2008

All-time Top 5 Wests Tigers tryscorers

Player Tries
Daniel Fitzhenry 44
Brett Hodgson (*) 38
Benji Marshall(*) 33
Kevin McGuinness 30
Chris Lawrence (*) 28
(*) player still active in the Wests Tigers team.

Current Top 5 Wests Tigers tryscorers

Player Tries
Brett Hodgson 38
Benji Marshall 33
Chris Lawrence 28
Robbie Farah 26
Chris Heighington 24

All-time Top 5 Wests Tigers Appearances

Player Appearance
Ben Galea 150
John Skandalis 142
Mark O'Neill 121
Daniel Fitzhenry 119
Chris Heighington (*) 110
Dene Halatau (*) 110
(*) player still active in the Wests Tigers team.

Dally M Award Winners

Clive Churchill Medal Winners

Representative Players

New South Wales Origin

Queensland Origin

Australia

New Zealand

Players Of Note

Wests Tigers "Team of the Century"

The Wests Tigers Team of the Century was announced in 2004, encompassing the best players from both Balmain and Western Suburbs. Balmain provide nine players, while Western Suburbs provide eight of the seventeen players in the team.

Captains and coaches

The Wests Tigers have had five captains in their history, at one stage two of those as co-captains. The team has been under the guidance of three coaches since their inception.
Captains

Coaches

Major Sponsors

  • Meriton Apartments (2000)
  • Don Smallgoods (2001)
  • New-Loan Home Loans (2002)
  • Radisson Maine Financial Group (2003)
  • Herbal World Therapeutic Soft Drinks (2004)
  • JFTA Petrochemical Services (2005)
  • Proton Cars (2006–)

Footnotes

External links

See also

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