Written by Stuart McLennan
Wests Tigers fans will tell you the most common opposition retort against their beloved club is one word. ‘Ninth’
The reality is that the Tigers have finished one place outside the top 8 six times in the club’s short 21 season existence. They have played finals football at the end of three seasons. Last year Wests finished in a disappointing 11th position.
The lack of sustained success irks Wests Tigers fans including this correspondent. Apart from improving defence across the park, the team has been crying out for an X – factor player. Benji Marshall (on young legs) and Brett Hodgson provided the flair in 2005 when the Tigers clinched the title.
A player who has the talent and potential to grab that role in 2021 is James Roberts. Devastating in attack when he is ‘on’, ‘Jimmy the Jet’ was a budget pick up for Wests after he was released by South Sydney at the end of last season on compassionate grounds.
Since 2011 Roberts has played 151 games across five different clubs and scored 75 tries. At his best he has been an Origin player and a threat to the best defensive lines. It is well documented that the speedy centre has spent time away from the game dealing with personal demons.
Pictures from recent Wests Tigers pre-season training sessions tell the story of a fit and healthy player that is happy to be given an opportunity by Michael Maguire.
In a recent club video Roberts was upbeat and positive about the coming season.
“This year is probably the first time I have looked forward to playing some footy in the last two years. I’m really excited for the season and just happy with where I am at the moment,” he said.
James acknowledges he is now a senior player and is actively taking a leadership role at the Tigers.
I’m going to stick my neck out, swim against the tide and say ‘Jimmy the Jet’ will return to his best form this year and Wests Tigers will make the 8.
Wests Tigers fans return to your allocated seat, buckle up, stow away the tray table and prepare to land in the finals.
James Roberts in full flight will have plenty of fans checking in at Bankwest, Leichhardt and Campbelltown in 2021.