The Wests Tigers seem to inhabit that rugby twilight zone.
Just outside finals in the Telstra 2018 NRL Premiership competition in ninth position, it may be generous to say they were just outside, as there was a six-point gap between Wests and New Zealand, but we say just outside for being one spot below the eight clubs that played finals.
They won a premiership in 2005, their sixth season since being formed from the Balmain Tigers and the Western Suburbs Magpies and they are prepared for 2019 after securing Luke Brooks to a four-year extension that will keep him at Concord through the end of the 2023 season.
Keeping the reigning Dally M halfback was high on the list of priorities for Wests, as any indication of dithering would have had South Sydney looking for an opportunity.
He has done well since his debut in 2013, but 2018 was the year that saw him rise to the level of franchise player. Some of that Benji Marshall magic must have rubbed off onto Brooks and Wests has a new coach in Michael Maguire, who carries an exceptional 62 percent winning percentage over 223 professional games, including six seasons with South Sydney.
Brooks himself was a fullback, wing and centre in a career limited to 18 games across seven seasons, so while it may have seemed that he was more spectator than anything else, Maguire was banking information that led to championships at Wigan and South Sydney.
Brooks expressed the view that Maguire’s success working with halves was a key factor in his decision to stay with Wests.
Maguire seems like the man to take Wests to the next level and having Brooks in the fold over the long term can only aid that quest.
Wests climbed from 14th in 2017 to 9th last season and the same sort of progress in 2019 could see them up to fourth, although it has to be acknowledged that the climb from 9th to 4th is going to be far more challenging than the climb from 14th to 9th.