Written by Stuart McLennan
Wests Tigers have experienced a short but eventful history in their 21 seasons since 2000. Controversy, crisis and an unexpected premiership has ensured the club has never been far from the back page of the newspaper.
Despite the well documented difficulties, leaving out 2005 and a few finals appearances, there have been a number of very good players pull on the black, orange and white jersey.
Everything Rugby League has selected the best 17 players from 2000 – 2021. Our criteria was they must have played at least 25 games for Wests Tigers and they are judged solely on their performances for the joint venture. Careers pre or post the Wests Tigers were not considered.
Given the relatively short amount of time the club has been in existence it was a quality field. A number of individuals could be considered unlucky to miss the cut.
1. Brett Hodgson (2004 – 08) – 103 appearances
Magpies junior Brett Hodgson is small in stature with a big heart. A fullback that could play in the line, he scored a number of tries for the Tigers backing up in the middle of the field. His form in 2005, when he was named Dally M Fullback of the Year and was the NRL competition’s leading point scorer with 308 points, the most points ever scored by a fullback in one season, played a big part in the Tigers premiership success.
2. Pat Richards (2004 – 05 and 2014-15) – 82 appearances
The tall winger was on the end of ‘that flick pass’ from Benji Marshall to score a spectacular try in the 2005 Grand Final. Patty had a great fend and was a prodigious try scorer (52 tries). He was blessed with an enormous boot that led to 118 goals while giving his opposition nightmares with impossible to catch kick restarts.
3. Chris Lawrence (2006 – 20) – 253 appearances
‘Rowdy’ retired at the end of last season with legendary status. The Western Suburbs junior’s first grade career started with a sensational debut as an 18-year-old at Suncorp Stadium scoring a scorching try to help the Tigers to a victory. Hampered by serious injuries, Lawrence showed courage and commitment to continue his career and transform from a speedy outside back to a tough back rower.
4. James Tedesco (2012 – 17) – 90 appearances
Perhaps a controversial selection at centre, Tedesco has gone on to be arguably the best fullback in the world. In terms of value to the Wests Tigers we believe he was surpassed by Hodgson. Teddy made his debut on the international scene for Italy as a centre and is a major threat in any backline position.
5. David Nofoaluma (2013 – current) – 138 appearances
Campbelltown junior and fan favourite David ‘Nofa’ Nofoaluma has a reputation as being the ultimate team man. A strong runner of the ball when coming out of trouble he also knows his way to the tryline.
Note: Taniela Tuiaki whose career was shortened by serious injury was very close to picking up a wing spot.
6. Benji Marshall (2003 – 13 and 2018 – 20) – 257 appearances
Benji took the rugby league world by storm when he burst onto the scene while still at school in 2003. Dazzling fans with his flamboyant playing style, the ‘Benji sidestep’ became a common sight in playgrounds. After two successful stints at the Tigers including playing a key role in the 2005 Grand Final, Marshall was told his services weren’t required in 2021.
7. Scott Prince (2004 – 6) – 73 appearances
Scott Prince was the consummate halfback the club was searching for pre-2004 and is still seeking. Oozing talent and ability to make those around him look good, he was a key factor in the 2005 success.
8. John Skandalis (2000 – 06 and 2009 -10) – 185 appearances
Magpies junior ‘Skando’ was a tough, uncompromising prop forward who never took a backwards step and was respected by teammates and opposition alike. A fan favourite who came out of retirement to help the club and has continued to serve on the Wests Tigers staff.
9. Robbie Farah (2003 – 16 and 2018 – 19) – 277 appearances
A Balmain junior and record holder for the most number of club games, Farah was the ultimate professional and an inspiring leader. After falling out with coach Jason Taylor, Robbie played elsewhere in 2017 before returning to the fold a season later.
10. Aaron Woods (2011 – 17) – 146 appearances
‘Woodsy’ played his best footy while at the Tigers, representing NSW and Australia during this period. A metres man, with a good offload, the Balmain junior disappointed fans when he departed the club at the end of 2017.
11. Gareth Ellis (2009 – 12) – 75 appearances
One of the best back rowers ever to play our game, Englishman Gareth Ellis provided the grit and backbone at the Tigers that many believe is missing now. A defender who could run a great line, Ellis was instantly missed when he returned to England after the 2012 season.
12. Anthony Laffranchi (2001 – 06) – 103 appearances
A talented footy player with good ball skills who could also mix it in the middle, he represented both Australia and Italy in internationals and was a member of the 2005 Grand Final winning side.
13. Chris Heighington (2003 – 12) – 202 appearances
Another member of the 2005 premiership team who could use the ball and wasn’t afraid to roll his sleeves up and do the hard work.
14. Bryce Gibbs (2003 -11) – 156 appearances
A magpies junior, 2005 premiership winner and fan favourite Gibbs was a true club man who gave his best each time he pulled on the jersey.
15. Todd Payten (2004 -11) – 151 appearances
Often described as a half back in a prop’s body, Payten had all the skills and a natural feel for the game that has transformed into a successful coaching career.
16. Marty Taupau (2014 -15) – 45 appearances
Plucked from the Bulldogs reserve grade side by Wests, ‘Kapow’ proved he was a genuine NRL player with big hits and barnstorming runs. Departed the club all too soon.
17. Darren Senter (2000 – 2004) – 96 appearances
The hooker/utility was the inaugural Wests Tigers captain before retiring in 2004, the year before the club’s only premiership. Tough and highly competitive ‘Hollywood’ never let the team down.
Coach – Tim Sheens (2003 – 2012) – 259 matches – 49.4% success rate
The most successful coach in the club’s history ‘Shifty’ Sheens took the Wests Tigers to a premiership title in 2005.