‘No ceiling’ as Tigers announce bold vision to rise from cellar, Vegas deadline looms, French inks long-term deal

'No ceiling' as Tigers announce bold vision to rise from cellar, Vegas deadline looms, French inks long-term deal

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Wests Tigers have unveiled a bold strategy to become a perennial top-four team and invest more in their Campbelltown heartland but offered no guarantees about remaining at Leichhardt Oval long term.

The “Roaring Ahead” strategic plan outlines targets to grow their membership to 13,000 by next year, boost their corporate revenue and lift their junior base above 10,000 registered players.

They have put “no ceiling” on the expectations for their NRL and NRLW teams who finished last and eighth respectively last season while they are also looking to double their community and school visits to 300 to reconnect with their fan base.

“Never put a ceiling on what our success can be on or off the field” is the mantra of the plan.

Interim CEO Shane Richardson said “we think we are a top-four club in the game and everything is benchmarked towards that”.

“Obviously, at the moment, we are not, we are at the bottom, as we are on a whole range of things commercially as well. We want to be a bigger club than that.

“This is a critical juncture in the club’s history.

“We have gone through significant change as an organisation and while we know we need to do better; we need our members, fans, corporate partners, and our entire community more than ever to be part of our journey ahead.

“The bottom line is you can’t guarantee a premiership, but you can’t win a premiership unless you are in the top four. That’s a historically proven fact. You might be able to, but it hasn’t been done before.

“I have said we want to be a top-four club. I don’t know if we’re going to finish top or eighth or 10th or wherever. That’s up to [coach] Benji [Marshall] and what they do on the field.

“I don’t know where we will finish this year, but wherever we finish this year, we will finish better next year. And the year after we will finish better again.”

Aidan Sezer’s late field goal lifted Wests Tigers to a 17-16 upset win over Parramatta on Easter Monday which coach Benji Marshall hailed as his side’s most resilient performance in “a long time” on the back of an emphatic victory over Cronulla the previous week.

Doubts remain over the future of Leichhardt Oval with Richardson admitting it looked grim for the famous ground with the NSW Government more likely to invest in their other stadium at Campbelltown.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 01: Lachlan Galvin of the Tigers is tackled during the round four NRL match between Parramatta Eels and Wests Tigers at CommBank Stadium, on April 01, 2024, in Sydney, Australia.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Vegas teams jockey for spots

Penrith and Melborne look set to be heading to Las Vegas for next year’s NRL double-header to kick off the season with a host of clubs competing for the other two berths.

Canterbury have indicated to the NRL that they do not want to be considered as they concentrate on rebuilding their team following seven straight years of missing the playoffs.

Clubs have until the end of this week to apply for a spot after the Roosters, Sea Eagles, Broncos and Rabbitohs played before more than 40,000 fans at Allegiant Stadium at the start of last month.

The Panthers, Storm, Knights, Raiders, Eels, Sharks, Cowboys, Dolphins, Warriors and Dragons are planning to lodge their interest, according to a NewsCorp report, with the four teams who went this year not likely to get another turn by head office.

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French snubs NRL return

Bevan French has turned his back on the chance to return to the NRL, with Wigan’s much-wanted Australian star signing a fresh deal with the world club champions.

The 28-year-old former Parramatta flyer has become the best player in the European game, with his brilliance evidenced most recently with his man-of-the-match performance for the Warriors against Penrith in the World Club Challenge.

That display, which featured a spectacular second-half score which was ruled out for a narrow offside, again put French’s excellence in the spotlight, with a number of NRL clubs already having been keen to bring back Tingha’s Indigenous star to Australia. 

But Wigan announced on Wednesday that stand-off French had penned a new four -year deal with the club which will take him though to the end of 2028.

Bevan French

(Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

The British giants have been left delighted, believing it may well mean French stays with the club for the rest of his career. 

Bevan joined the Warriors halfway through the 2019 season from Parramatta Eels and he’s been a hit ever since with fans of Britain’s most famous club, illuminating the Super League with his scintillating performances which last year won him the Man of Steel award as its best player. 

But having often said he would one day want to return to Australia to try his luck at conquering the NRL, it was somewhat of a surprise that he should sign a deal that will take him through to his early thirties in the Super League.

“Over my past couple of contracts, I’ve become close (to returning to Australia) with negotiations with other clubs back in the NRL,” French told Sky Sports.

“But I think when we spoke about extending this time, I really gave Wigan the option to see if we can come to an agreement before I even look elsewhere. 

“I’ve built a lot of good relationships on and off the field and just evolved each year. I never feel like I’m stuck in the same place, I keep feeling like I’m improving every time I go out each week.”

French, who broke the record for the most tries scored – seven – in a Super League fixture in 2022, inspired them to a grand final triumph last year before toppling Penrith in February.

“It wasn’t a hard decision to make, I’ve built up lots of good relationships here, on and off the field,” he said.

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