We are celebrating a Lunar New Year and guess what folks, 2022 is the Year of the (Water) Tiger.
While this revelation is unlikely to have Wests Tigers fans researching when Grand Final tickets go on sale, another event will at least bring a rare smile to the faces of long suffering fans.
The extension of Stefano Utoikamanu’s contract to the end of 2025 is a big coup for the club in itself, but it’s what it signifies in terms of culture and unity that will be a huge boost for fans, administrators, coaches and players at the Concord based club.
Big Stefano is arguably the best young front row prospect around in the NRL. He has been identified as a future NSW Origin player by Brad Fitter and the Blues coaching staff and was a member of the extended squad for the third Origin match last season.
We know you’ve been waiting for this one! 😏
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) January 31, 2022
It’s safe to say the 21 year old, who stands 195cm and weighs in at 115kg, would have received overtures and possibly contract offers from powerhouse clubs such as the Roosters and Melbourne Storm looking to future- proof their clubs.
However Utoikamanu, who played 21 NRL games for the Wests Tigers in 2021, confirmed what all fans were hoping for.
“I love this club. It’s going to be a really big time for us these next few years,” the forward told Wests Tigers media.
With the return of 2005 premiership winning coach Tim Sheens, the addition of well respected former Eels captain Nathan Cayless and successful NSW Cup Coach Ben Gardiner as assistant coaches, and some solid recruitment in 2022 with Isaiah Papali’i and Api Korisau due in 2023 the stars may just be starting to align for Wests.
It’s a far cry from the messiness of 2017, coincidentally the ‘Year of the Rooster’, when three of the so called ‘Big 4’ left the club to pursue other opportunities.
Happy Lunar Year. Supporters of the joint venture will be hoping it really is the ‘Year of the Tiger’ even if that means jagging a spot in the top 8 for the first time in 11 years.