Good read, a few nightmare shivers from some of the signings mentionedWorth a read
Have the Wests Tigers finally landed on the players that can end their NRL finals drought?
It's the most wonderful time of the year because the sun is shining, the Christmas leftovers are still good enough to stick on a sandwich and Wests Tigers fans are starting to hope again.
Signing John Bateman caps a heavy recruitment drive for 2023, with Api Koroisau, Isaiah Papali'i and David Klemmer all heading to Concord in what could bring about the kind of change that usually only comes when a southerly drops the temperature on a scorching summer afternoon.
The Tigers have been here before, of course.
Footy optimism is as much a December tradition as cleaning up an unsuspecting younger relative at backyard cricket and forgetting what day of the week it is during the time between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
It's never worked out the way they wanted, but there's every chance things are a little different this time around.
This latest revival isn't built on hope, it's built on cold, hard cash and using that cash to buy the best of what's around.
There are very few problems in rugby league that can't be solved by throwing some money around and, after 11 straight seasons without finals football, the Tigers have got nothing to lose and everything to gain by dropping some fat stacks on the table.
In their 22 years of existence, the joint venture's success, such as it's been, has been built on either building from within or buying low on players who, for whatever reason, can be snagged below their market value.
Both approaches work well in theory, but it's not a surprise to see the club go a different way. You can hardly go a month without seeing an exhaustive list of players the Tigers once had, either as juniors or in the early days of their career, who have gone on to greatness with other clubs.
And turning value signings into stars is a process that works extremely well until it doesn't and, when it doesn't, you can get stuck in a perpetual cycle of starting again, over and over again.
So why not open up the wallet? The transfer market is like anything else: if you can't get out of it, get into it.
The Tigers have had big recruitment drives before, but never anything like this.
Back when Ivan Cleary was coach — which feels like a century ago given what's happened since — Ben Matulino, Russell Packer and Josh Reynolds all came on big money with bodies that were already breaking down.
Moses Mbye was capable of so many things, but they never found the spot at which he could be the most capable.
Adam Blair came from the Storm in what was supposed to be the transfer that pushed them to a second premiership, but ended up beginning a series of broken dreams that were crushed like cans on the Leichhardt Oval hill.
However, this is not that.
Klemmer, Bateman, Koroisau and Papali'i are all established talents, blue-chip stocks, with runs on the board and reputations that precede them, the way lightning precedes thunder.
Koroisau marks the first time the club has signed an incumbent New South Wales Origin player since Terry Hill joined the Tigers for their inaugural season, all the way back in 2000.
He is the sort of dummy half who makes the players around him better: It's no coincidence that Nathan Cleary's rise began when Koroisau joined the Panthers, nor should it be a surprise that, even as Penrith crushed the rugby league world beneath their feet, Koroisau continued to improve.
His game is built on smarts more than athleticism, so it makes sense that his style would age well as he gained a greater understanding of his own skills.
The three-time premiership winner is the club's most-important recruit, but the others are just as impressive.
Despite falling out of representative favour for reasons that remain unclear, Klemmer's production for the Knights remained exceptional even as the club struggled — his 155-metres-per-game last year was the fifth-most of any forward in the league.
Papali'i's journey to the club might have been rocky, with regular talk the New Zealander was considering backflipping and staying with Parramatta, but he's in black, white and gold now and, given he was seventh in the entire league for metres gained last season — as well as fourth for post-contact metres — it's fair to say the Tigers have landed one of the best backrowers in the world.
Bateman was in that category during his time with Canberra in 2019-20 and still has that football in him — maybe just in patches, but that could be enough.
The Englishman is mean enough to out-fight a razorback and provides the kind of attacking scope that can make the most of the metres that are sure to be on offer.
Even if Bateman isn't the same force he was in his Raiders days, it won't be crippling. There is a strength-in-numbers situation going on here.
If one of the four doesn't live up to the billing that would be a disappointment, but the duties of leading the club back to the promised land is spread across the quartet.
Nobody is being asked to put the whole of the club's vast territory on their own back. It's a heavy weight, but they can share the load.
It's no good having a silver spoon on a paper plate but, despite finishing last in 2022, there's still other things to like about the Tigers roster.
Daine Laurie and Adam Doueihi were two bright spots in last year's wooden-spoon campaign and Stefano Utoikamanu, who lost much of last year to injury, was formerly one of the most-promising young props in the league.
Luke Brooks will once again bear the weight of expectations that have crippled his career and act as the target for a decade's worth of frustrations.
It would probably be for the best for both player and club if Brooks began his 11th year in first grade with a fresh start somewhere else, but the Tigers will dance with the one that brought them at least one more time and it's been many years since Brooks was surrounded with this type of talent.
Add all that up and there's something here. Maybe not enough for Tigers fans to book their finals tickets now, but it's better than nothing.
How much of that something will turn out to be substantial remains to be seen but, in terms of their roster, the Tigers have done just about all they can do.
They've tried the rest, so why not buy some of the best and see where it takes them?
With a wooden spoon in hand, after years stuck in the cold, what have they possibly got to lose?
But IMO, the club has got it spot on, so far. You can only sign the best available and we just about have I reckon.
I just hope it doesn’t end in tears with Brooks failing again, he now has no more excuses surely?
We have one more signing to come, will be interesting who he is and where he will be playing?
The first 5 rounds should tell us a bit about how the team is gelling: No reason we can’t be 5&0, but 3+ Wins, would be a fantastic way to start the year, IMO