Opinion: Sleep on Luch at your own peril

Michael Maguire has made a lot of great roster changes since taking over from the big over spender, Ivan Cleary. But one that doesn’t get talked about enough is the signing of Luciano Leilua from the St George Illawarra Dragons in late November of 2019.

Luciano Leilula. Image: WestsTigers.com.au

Luch was one of our best in 2020 and we here at WestsLife are predicting him to not only be club player of the year, but up there in the conversation for the best back rowers in the NRL.

With the likes of Vilame Kikau, Felise Kafusi, Wade Graham, David Fifita, it’s a pretty stacked position and a big call. But a warning to other clubs, don’t sleep on the 24 year old Toa Samoa rep.

In terms of ranks within the Wests Tigers, the younger Leilua was second to Harry Grant in tackles made, yet only average one missed per game. He was third in offloads (four behind his brother Joey, two less than David Nofoaluma). But if the trial against Manly is any indication, Madge has given him a green light for offloads and second phase play is a massive weapon in attack, especially with the likes of his brother, Daine Laurie and Luke Brooks backing up.

He’s also a try scoring machine himself, scoring seven meat pies himself in 2020 which is tied first for second rowers.

Both of the Leilua brothers at the Wests Tigers apparently trained the house down over the summer, dropping several kilos each. A teammate of Joey posted a picture on social media of him shirtless and it was instantly visible that his bodyfat percentage has shrunk significantly. Unfortunately he was a late withdrawal from the trial game against Manly, so we’ve yet to see what it will do for his game this year.

As for Luciano Leilua, he tore Manly’s defensive line apart. He looked more agile, stronger and also craftier with the ball. His long curly hair waving side-to-side as he was in stride was a sight to behold.

Expect to see ‘Rick Flair’ among many NRL highlights videos this year. That son (brother?) of a gun is in for a HUGE season.

We guarantee it.

Listen to the 2021 season preview episode of WestsLife Podcast now on Spotify, Apple Podcasts or Podbean.

Wests Tigers fan’s tattoo of David Nofoaluma

Friend of the WestsLife podcast, Patty Sills, is a massive Wests Tigers fan and what kids today describe as a “stan” of David Nofoaluma.

Before the winger put pen to paper, Patty made a promise that he would get his face tattooed onto his body. Of course Nofa re-signed on January 14.

Fast forward a fortnight, Patty was a man of his word. David Nofoaluma will live on his wrist for life. Impressing the legend himself in doing so.

The tattoo was done by @roycelaketattoo King St Tattoo in Newtown and took two hours to complete.

“I’ve always loved Nofa,” Patty told WestsLife.

“I played wing growing up so that drew me to him initially and fell in love with how he plays and his passion for the club.

“I had a few images to pick from that werenโ€™t great quality or wouldnโ€™t fit well on my forearm, so that was the best of the bunch.

“Royce did a great job”.

Have you got a Wests Tigers-themed tatt? Show us on Twitter or Instagram.

Why it’s an exciting fresh start for Wests Tigers in 2021

It’s been a long 10 year wait, but previous seasons mean nothing. Every season sees every team back to zero. Here is why Wests Tigers are top eight bound in 2021.

Wests Tigers announced on Friday, February 12th that new Penrith Panthers recruit James Tamou will be the captain of the side in 2021. On paper or to an outsider, that probably is a shock. But to those within the club, or those who follow the club’s every word intensely (we are the latter), it was very predictable. Jimmy lead the Penrith Panthers to a minor premiership and grand final while in 2015 he scored a try in the North Queensland Cowboys’ only grand final win. Throw in 12 tests and 14 Origins, he knows what it’s like on the big stage. He knows what winning culture and elite teams look like. The captaincy is among several changes that coach Michael Maguire has made this summer. Unlike in previous years and with previous coaches, player recruitment has been well calculated and the spending on salaries much more cautious. There hasn’t been a superstar signed, but there hasn’t been superstar coin added to the salary cap. Former Origin star James Roberts is on close to minimum wage. Joe Ofahengaue has his contract topped up by his former club the Brisbane Broncos. Former Penrith Panthers captain James Tamou is on just $400,000 (that’s not a lot for a starting front row forward, if you didn’t know).Young gun Stefano Utoikamanu is on decent coin for an inexperienced player, but if he lives up to his hype he will be more than worth every dollar. Many Wests Tigers fans felt like the signings lacked a marquee signing. While that’s somewhat true, our current cap situation means that it’s probably not going to happen until the 2022 and 2023 seasons when our highest paid players are coming off contract. In terms of the outs, the 2021 season will be the first since 2006 without veteran Chris Lawrence. Benji Marshall was offered an off the field role but declined and has signed with Souths. Josh Reynolds has gone to the UK Super League as has Elijah Taylor. Chris McQueen and Matt Eisenhuth are also on the list of players whom have not only been released, they’re all closer to the end of their careers than they are to the start. Tamou is the only player signed that was born in the 80s. Our squad’s average age has dropped significantly. The joke about the Wests Tigers being the superannuation club is coming to an end.

The signings that are coming in all have either speed, size and power. The forwards incoming like Joe Ofahengaue, Tukimihia Simpkins, James Tamou and Stefano Utoikamanu are exactly what the doctor ordered. In recent seasons, our team just seemed to lack that momentum and consistency in the forwards that the top teams have. While one of our best forwards in Josh Aloiai did a runner to the Northern Beaches, Tamou, Ofahengaue and Utoikamanu all have one thing in common: they’re all post contact machines. Also don’t underestimate how much we missed Zane Musgrove in 2020 as well. Injury meant he only played six games and he was impressive in almost all of them. There’s also our guy Shawn Blore who’ll be better for his first offseason as an NRL player. We got a good taste of what he can do in his rookie year and apparently he’s been training the house down. Expect more of Blore flooring blokes in 2021.

We here at WestsLife have been one of the shrinking number of people on Luke Brooks island and maintained that the kid (wait, he’s 26 already!) needs a forward pack around him to work with. We stand by that. But with the big boppas in front of him now, this is his time to shine. Halves partners, be it Adam Doueihi or Jock Madden, should suit him well. It’s a popular opinion that he goes missing when he’s paired up with a game dominator like Benji Marshall. Well the king has become a peasant of Redfern now. Brooksy, this is your team now. Prove us right (we’re due to be). The aspirations for even the most one-eyed Wests Tigers fans this season is eighth place. We’re desperate for it. Experts are saying it’s impossible. The memes about our beloved club are endless. But 2012 to 2020 are run and won. 2021 is a new year and we’ve got a premiership winning coach with a premiership experienced captain. It just smells a little different around Concord this year. Here’s hoping that’s a waft of finals footy in the air. Bring. It. On.

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