wests season preview

NRL expert Steve Green has put together his mammoth season preview for 2021. We’re running through every club, from his predicted wooden spooners to those he thinks will take out he premiership. Today it’s the Wests season preview.

2020 recap

Wests served up their long suffering fans more of the same in 2020. All the talk of a new culture was thrown out the door at times. Players leaking to the media, dressing room unrest and the damage done by some horrible long-term deals by Ivan Cleary still causing havoc.

And despite Coach McGuire looking like he would waiver and change his style to be less of a hard-ass, off season reports are that he is doubling down on his approach.

As you can see below, McGuire has moved on a whole heap of players that he thought were not part of the club’s future. While it is sad for genuine good guys like Reynolds and Benji, I actually agree with nearly all of the decisions that he made.

Wests season preview: Losses

Chris Lawrence, Benji Marshall, Chris McQueen, Paul Momirovski, Josh Reynolds and Elijah Taylor are the big name players that are gone. This has freed up a lot of salary cap space.

However, on the down side, they had to give back the amazing Harry Grant. He’s left a huge hole in the side. Josh Aloiai left in bitter circumstances and is a loss to this Wests forward pack. I was surprised to see Matthew Eisenhuth moved on. He always impressed me and I just don’t understand how he was not retained. One thing is clear, a lot of players have left Wests in recent years with a chip on their shoulder. So although McGuire’s approach may work for some, he is definitely not a coach that is loved by all of his players!

Wests season preview: Gains

While the above culling may sound bad, it has opened the door for the recruitment of a heap of experienced guys with Origin experience. Joe Ofahengaue and James Roberts will be looking to resurrect their NRL careers (and Origin chances!) at Wests. The experienced James Tamou has been named captain and will be expected to bring his leadership and winning culture.

At the other end of the experience spectrum, McGuire has picked up some great young talent in the form of Daine Laurie, Tukimihia Simpkins, Kelma Tuilagi and Stefano Utoikamanu. When you throw in the likes of Shawn Blore who was recruited mid-season, Wests have an exciting young crop of talent that may well be capable of getting this team into the finals.

Wests season preview: Rookie radar

Ask any Wests fan which player is under the most pressure in 2021 and they will tell you Luke Brooks. With Moses, Tedesco and Woods all gone over the past 5 years, Brooks is the last of the Big 4 players that Wests had hoped to build a Premiership team around. While I like him as a player, Jock Madden will come into the selection frame if Brooks cannot deliver in 2021. Madden is a former schoolboy star that will get a go at some time in 2021. His goal line defence needs to improve, however.

Wests season preview: Players to watch

Jacob Liddle is another guy that is probably on his final chance in 2021. This talented hooker has had his career progression hindered by injury. Coach McGuire will need him to step up and fill the enormous void left by Harry Grant in 2021. Liddle is a great runner of the ball, but he needs to improve his service and game management. This will come with time on the field. If he can stay fit, his form will be the difference between a top 8 spot or another season of failure for Wests.

Lusciano Leilua had a breakout year in 2020, outplaying his more high-profile older bother Joey. L Leilua is a genuine game breaker. He has an ability to score tries and create chances with his slick ball skills. In 2020 he showed that he was fitter than ever. He’ll need to take this fitness to the next level if he is to continue to evolve into a top notch second rower and potential Origin forward in 2021.

Adam Doueihi is a terrific player. Yet there seems to be a lot of doubt over where his best position is. Recruited as a fullback, I made it clear I did not think he had the speed for that role in the modern game. I think I was vindicated in 2020. I think he is a 6 and he should partner Brooks in the halves, which looks set to occur. If he can stay fit and build chemistry with Brooks, then he will have a strong season and show Wests fans why the club paid so much to lure him across from Souths.

Wests season preview: Weaknesses

While some clubs have a culture of losing, Wests has a culture of falling just short. Wests have not made the finals since 2011. And they’ve not even looked like making it on multiple occasions since then. This is a massive finals drought for a joint venture that has a great junior nursery and is well-resourced.

McGuire has taken Wests to 9th and 11th in his two seasons as head coach. Another year of failing to make the finals will break the spirit of some fans.

Wests season preview: Strengths

The players that I think will run out in Round 1 are overwhelmingly new to the club. Nofoaluma and Brooks are the only two players that have been around for most of this horror finals drought. So although the fans might feel exhausted, McGuire has a crop of new and exciting players that should be full of confidence heading into 2021.

They have a good mix of experience and youth. And with guys like Leilua, Roberts, Nofa and Talau, I think they have one of the most underrated backlines in the competition.

Wests season preview: Ladder prediction


NRL season previews



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