As a result of the Super League war and the NRL not being able to keep as many teams as it would like, the merge of Balmain and the Western Suburbs would occur after the 1999 season.
The Wests Tigers club was formed to keep football in the Western Suburbs of Sydney alive. Some of the greats from Balmain and the Magpies either retired or moved on from the club, and a new breed of player was introduced.
It took only five seasons for the club to obtain premiership success, the quickest of any merger club, and some great talent has been through the club.
For this list is for Wests Tigers players only (so 2000 onwards) as I will be making a separate list for Balmain and the Magpies respectively, as usual the one man per club rule will have effect.
10. Mark O’Neill
A Balmain crossover player, O’Neill played 102 games for Balmain before switching over to the Wests Tigers. In he would play 121 games for the club and score 11 tries, he was on the receiving head of the infamous king hit by Danny Williams from the Storm.
In 2005, his last season at the club, he was named captain of the team but would have the title taken off him and replaced by Scott Prince. However he would retire a premiership player, part of the 2005 grand final winning team.
9. Liam Fulton
Debuting in 2003 he would play 77 games for the club in his first stint at the club and be part of there 2005 grand final wining team. Due to salary cap restrictions he would leave the club only to return in 2010. He would play a further 88 games for the club and earn representative duties for NSW City and the NRL All Stars. Score 37 tries for the club.
8. Aaron Woods
Debuting for the tigers in 2011, Woods would be the leader of the forward pack and make his way to captaining the side with the departing Robbie Farah leaving the club. A leader for the new generation of Tigers’ players from his 126 games, Woods would score 10 tries and would represent NSW 11 times and Australia with nine Tests.
In 2015 he would win the Dally M for Prop of the Year and be the runner up for the Dally M Medal behind Johnathan Thurston.
7. Pat Richards
Richards would only have four seasons at the club but would still have a great impact. In the 2005 grand final he would be on the receiving end of Benji Marshall’s famous “flick behind the back pass”.
Upon his return in 2014 he would score a try with his first touch, have a 72 metre drop out (some say a world record) and close the year being the highest try and points scorer at the club. In 2015 he would be the first player of the modern era to kick 1000 goals. In his four seasons he would play 82 games and score 446 points. He would represent Ireland seven times.
6. Keith Galloway
Coming from the Sharks in 2005, Galloway would start at the Tigers in 2006, being loyal until 2015 he would play 173 games for the club and win the Noel Kelly award for Forward of the year in 2011, he would also represent NSW once and win five Tests for Australia playing in the 2011 Four Nations team.
5. Chris Lawrence
A gun player for the club, Lawrence came into the side in 2006 as the youngest player to have debuted for the Tigers, at 17 years and 283 days old.
With his 200th game for the club approaching he can add this to his resume as well as being the co-captain of the club, filling in when Aaron Woods was injured. With 75 tries and over three-hundred points to his name so far, Tigers fans would be looking forward to more of this great player. In 2011 he played six Tests for Australia alongside team mates Keith Galloway and Robbie Farah in the Four Nations Squad.
4. Brett Hodgson
Originally a Western Suburbs player, Hodgson would come back to the Western Suburbs in 2004 and in Round 24 of 2005 he would score a club record 22 points during a 54-2 flogging of the Bulldogs. Just three weeks later he would break his own record by scoring 30 points against the Cowboys.
Due to this he won the Dally M for fullback of the year and the NRL’s leading points scorer for the season with 308 points, the most by any fullback. This record still stands to this day. Hodgson would play 102 games for the club score 38 tries and kick 317 goals.
He would represent NSW six times and be most remember for being flung like a ragdoll over the touchline by Gorden Tallis in the 2002 series.
3. Robbie Farah
Farah is the most capped player at the club playing 247 games over 13 seasons for the club. He was the starting hooker in the 2005 grand final over the Cowboys and was named the player of the year for the club in 2006.
He would have a stellar 2007 by being again named the player of the name for the club and then being awarded the Dally M Hooker of the year and being one point behind Johnathan Thurston for the Player of the Year award. He would be the longest serving captain of the team captaining for seven seasons.
Over his time he would score 61 tries and be a huge part of the club becoming a living legend. He would represent NSW 16 times and have 8 Tests for Australia.
2. Scott Prince
Prince came to the Tigers in 2004 after leaving the Brisbane Broncos. While only having 74 games at the club he would have an ever lasting impact at the club. In 2005 he would take over the captaincy of the club from Mark O’Neil in a controversial move by then coach Tim Sheens.
It would prove beneficial as Prince would led the team to the 2005 grand final and win the Clive Churchill Medal for the game and become the only captain from the club to do so. He has represented Queensland five times and Australia four and was the first player from the joint venture to do so.
Before I get to my number one there are some honourable mentions, Lote Turqui, Chris Heighington, Terry Hills, Dene Halatau and Beau Ryan
1. Benji Marshall
Was the going to be any dispute about this man being their best ever?
Marshall has most records at the club, most points 1118, most tries 76 and most goals 402, he is also a member of the 200 games club for the team. A valuable player Marshall was instrumental in the 2005 grand final with his famous “flick behind the back pass” that sealed the deal for the team.
A ball player that could pretty much anything there is no reason why he should not be my number one. Marshall has captained the NRL All Stars team twice and played 27 Tests for New Zealand where he was also captain.
Do you agree with my list? Who is your favourite all time Wests Tigers player?