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Wests Tigers and Newcastle have definitely improved in a position of need at each club with the Jackson Hastings-David Klemmer swap, but fans of those teams shouldn’t expect a big climb up the ladder.
The halves were perhaps the one area of the field where the Tigers had too many standard first-year options while the Knights pack are well equipped to handle the impact of Klemmer’s loss.
But both teams need more personnel changes to become final contenders again.
Klemmer brings much-needed aggression and forward play to a Tigers group that was dominated more often than not by rival teams last season.
He will start his 11th season in the NRL in 2023, but he’s still only 28, so the three-year deal isn’t too long for a player who is still producing regularly.
Klemmer ranked third among specialist props in running yards last season with 146 per game, shaded only by Brisbane’s Payne Haas and Raiders star Joseph Tapine at 151.
He doesn’t shy away from his defensive workload either – his 28 tackles per game have only been bettered among first rowers by Alex Twal and Lindsay Collins (29).
And incoming/outgoing coach Tim Sheens needs experience, especially in his squad. Having Klemmer by his side will do wonders for youngster Stefano Utoikamanu, whose progress has been hampered by injuries.
Klemmer’s arrival on the back of Panthers hooker Api Koroisau and Eels second rower Isaiah Papali’i gives Sheens reason to be optimistic that Wests won’t end up with the wooden spoon again.
Tigers fans should take comfort in the fact that Papali’i has managed to go through successive weeks without giving ambiguous answers about whether he will honor his three-year contract. Having represented Samoa at the World Cup, it will still be a while before he shows up for pre-season training – until he steps onto the pitch next year in black, white and gold, Tigers fans will continue to be nervous.
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Following the mid-season sacking of Michael Maguire, the Tigers underwent a massive and, in the words of Salt n Pepa, much needed overhaul.
Hastings was arguably their best player last season until hip-drop tackle Patrick Carrigan ended his season a month early, but with Luke Brooks and Adam Doueihi on deck they couldn’t afford to wear three halves on their salary cap, especially when Brooks eats way more value than he brings in.
They’re out of contract at the end of next year, so Sheens and his protege coach Benji Marshall will have no qualms about quitting both or either playmaker if they don’t deliver next season.
Second rowers Luke Garner (Penrith) and Kelma Tuilagi (Manly) have been solid contributors, but with Papali’i heading to Concord and England striker John Bateman potentially doing the same, the Tigers should have improved peak options .
Zane Musgrove (Dragons), Jock Madden (Broncos), James Tamou (Cowboys), Oliver Gildart (Dolphins), Jacob Liddle (Dragons) and Tyrone Peachey (Panthers) were part of the problem at the club last season, so it was highly unlikely. they were going to help with the solution.
Unsurprisingly, they were 15th in defense and motherless in offense last season. Experienced rookies will clearly mean they will drop fewer points, but where will the points come from?
Charlie Staines is their only significant signing and he has shown in his early seasons at Penrith that he is only effective when he has quality playmakers creating space for him.
The options for Sheens at fullbacks still look extremely limited, so he shouldn’t expect to be on the end of too many overlaps, whether he slots in on the wing or moves Daine Laurie to fullback.
Luckily, they aren’t called the Magpies anymore because after their 4-20 record last season, there would be a few “four and 20 blackbirds” songs floating around or maybe their name would be shortened to Pies.
“As a club, we are obviously not happy to have finished last in 2022 and tough decisions need to be made,” Tigers CEO Justin Pascoe said in the club statement announcing Hastings’ departure. “Not everyone will be happy with some decisions we make, but we don’t apologize for those decisions.”
Maybe not, but fans have been expecting a few apologies in recent seasons for several other signings.
Klemmer said he was heartened by the chance to make a fresh start at a new club under Sheens: “I know Tim (Sheens) well throughout our time with the Kangaroos and there’s a lot to like about the management. the club is taking in. In many ways this is a new start for the club and I am delighted to be a part of it.
For the Knights, they have now added Hastings and the player he resembles more than any other in the NRL – Tyson Gamble from Brisbane – to their halves.
These are two agitators cut from the same fabric. Hastings has better organizational skills, so it’s likely he’ll start at half-back with Gamble, or potentially Kalyn Ponga, down five-eights.
The Knights had to do something to shake up their halves – they were slightly ahead of the Tigers on scoring last season as they tried out Adam Clune, Jake Clifford and Anthony Milford as playmakers after the Mitchell Pearce’s departure for the Catalans the previous one. -season.
With the Saifiti twins – Jacob and Daniel, the addition of Raiders veteran Adam Elliott and Canterbury’s Jack Hetherington (when not suspended) they still have the basics for decent forward rotation, but their future prospects, and those of coach Adam O’ Brien, will go up and down if Ponga is a selfless destroyer.
Even if he regularly brings his original form to club level, it will be hard to see the Knights end up with a much different record from their 6-18 campaign which relegated them to 14th place (just a kick on goal in front of the Warriors on percentages).
Swaps like the Hastings-Klemmer deal should happen more often in the NRL when two clubs can talk about mutually beneficial swaps.
This one is a step in the right direction for every team, but the top eight are still a long way off.