Written by Stuart McLennan
Isaiah Papalii gave an insight to an initiation ritual at the Wests Tigers this week when he admitted he had to get up in front of the squad and sing a song, as did fellow recruits Api Korisau, David Klemmer, John Bateman and Charlie Staines.
It is a light hearted bonding activity used by newly formed groups. The Greek rugby league team, who recently participated in their first World Cup, offer newcomers a choice of a song or a dance. Dancing is accompanied by shouts of ‘Opa’ when the Greek domestic boys do their Zorba thing.
After an offseason overflowing with positive messages, engineered by the Wests Tiger PR team, fans are understandably excited, given the players picked up since the club were handed their first wooden spoon and an impressive second trial with most of the big guns lining up in the first half.
The proof as to whether anything has changed after over a decade of disappointment for fans will start to unravel on Sunday when they come up against the Gold Coast Titans at Leichhardt Oval. It may take some weeks to gel for a side with a number of new faces and a very different style and structure to what former coach Michael Maguire demanded during his tenure.
A new coaching group with a retro feel featuring 2005 grand final winners Tim Sheens, Benji Marshall Robbie Farah and Chris Heighington along with former Raiders mentor David Furner and a philosophy of using the ball and playing what’s in front, means spectators will experience a very different and hopefully more entertaining Wests Tigers this season.
— Wests Tigers (@WestsTigers) February 28, 2023
A forward pack to rival the best in the NRL, counterbalanced by questions around halves depth and the quality of outside backs has many pundits uncertain where the team will be sitting come September.
Daine Laurie did enough in pre-season to retain the fullback spot while Panthers recruit Charlie Staines starts on the wing in place of the injured Maumalo and Tommy Talau plays his first competition game since the final round of 2021. Recently arrived English international John Bateman will sit out the first round.
There are lots of smiles and reports of houses being “trained down” as the boys prepare for what could be Wests Tigers most crucial season in the relatively short history of the club.
Let’s hope for the sake of long suffering fans the players are still singing and dancing to the right music in six months time.