The Magpies were left wondering what could have been in 2019 after making a finals appearance last season, and with a 10thplaced finish there is room to improve for Western Suburbs if they are to make a post-season return.
Their 2019 campaign got off to flyer with comprehensive back-to-back wins over the Blacktown Workers and the Warriors by 19 and 38 points respectively, but consecutive victories eluded the Magpies for the rest of the season as a lack of consistency ultimately proved costly.
Having spent most of the season under the tutelage of first-grade veterans Josh Reynolds and Robbie Rochow, there is plenty to look forward to for the young talent in the side such as Tommy Talau, Kane Bradley, Watson Heleta and Oliver Clark.
Their highlight moment
Round 11 v South Sydney Rabbitohs - 30-18 W
While the Magpies’ seven wins were scattered throughout 2019, it was arguably the upset of the season over the second-placed Rabbitohs that was the most satisfying performance for Brett Hodgson’s men.
The Rabbitohs were of the best in the regular season alongside the Dragons, and as Jack Johns crossed over in the opening five minutes the Magpies’ four-game winless streak seemed set to continue.
However, the Magpies were quick to reply through Harrison O’Toole at the 10-minute mark before captain Kauri Aupouri-Puketapu followed up with a try of his own. Luke Garner scored a third before the break to give Western Suburbs an 18-12 lead at half-time.
The best part of the Magpies’ victory was seen in the next 40 minutes as they maintained high intensity on both sides of the ball, holding the Rabbitohs to a solitary 2nd-half try in their 30-18 win.
Simply their best
Watson Heleta reaped the rewards of a standout season at centre for the Magpies, earning both the Wests Tigers’ Canterbury Cup Player of the Year and Canterbury Cup Players’ Player awards.
Although it was a disappointing season for Western Suburbs, Heleta remained a constant feature in a line-up that experienced a host of changes in the outside backs as players came in and out of the first-grade side.
The Keebra Park graduate finished the 2019 season with eight tries, four try-assists and six line-breaks with an average 123.4 run metres. After another superb year at the Magpies, Heleta could well be in line for a first-grade debut in 2020.
Room for improvement
Consistency. Despite a strong two-win start in 2019, the Magpies continued to struggle to build any momentum after a victory. They will need to be able to string more results together if they are to secure a top-eight position and go deep into the finals next year.
Western Suburbs will also need to take advantage of their home fixtures next season after a finishing 2019 with a 5-5 record. Each top-eight side produced at least seven wins at home by the end of 2019, proving that building a home fortress can go a long way to future success for the Magpies.
Soward's season grading
I think Wests were unlucky at different stages of the season but in the end they unvelied some really strong talent, and a prime example if Tommy Talau who has a massive future in the game.
Their top squad is skinny so I imagine some of these guys will make their mark in the NRL soon enough so there's some promising signs for the Tigers, and Magpies moving forward into 2020 and beyond.
This season grading is the opinion of Jamie Soward, based purely on performance factors throughout the 2019 season, and does not nessecarily reflect the views of NSWRL.