Cleary assesses 2018’s new blood

Starting fresh: Wests Tigers head coach Ivan Cleary gets to mould a team of his choosing in the 2018 season. Picture: Peter Rae

Starting fresh: Wests Tigers head coach Ivan Cleary gets to mould a team of his choosing in the 2018 season. Picture: Peter Rae

It has been a tumultuous 2017 season for the Wests Tigers.

The early shambles that was Tim Simona’s departure, the sacking of Jason Taylor and the off-contract drama of the team’s big four all worked to create one of the more frustrating season starts for an NRL team.

But new coach Ivan Cleary is looking past all the drawbacks of the first part of this season and is ready to move the team forward.

Since Cleary’s appointment as head coach in time for round six this year there have been a host of players signing on to join the team in 2018.

Cleary told the Advertiser while they were still focussed on performing as well as possible for the rest of the season he was looking forward to the “fresh start” next season would provide.

“I can see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

“I really want to stand in that light.”

Josh Reynolds

Josh Reynolds

Cleary said next season’s new five-eighth Josh Reynolds (currently with the Canterbury-Bankstown Bulldogs) would bring with him a great zest for the game of rugby league.

“Josh is one of those guys who are incredibly passionate about football and have a great love of the game,” he said. “That’s something that really resonates with the fans, and they will come out and watch him play because of it.”

Cleary said the pairing of Reynolds and halfback Luke Brooks would be great because of their age difference and would allow Brooks to take a more controlling role.

The coach also spoke highly of St George-Illawarra’s Tiger Town-bound Russell Packer, who he coached in his time with the New Zealand Warriors.

Russell Packer

Russell Packer

Cleary said Packer’s “well-documented” troubles with the law and time away from the game had been a life-changing journey for the prop, who he has known since the Kiwi international was 16.

“It has been tough but I think he has come through it a better man,” he said.

“I think he will still continue to get better in his game.”

Cleary also said young recruit Malakai Watene-Zelezniak was an “exciting prospect”.