Class of 2005 rule Wests Tigers’ legends team

Thirteen players from Wests Tigers’ historic premiership-winning side of 2005 have been named in the joint-venture club’s greatest ever team.

The Tigers celebrated their 15th anniversary at a gala dinner on Tuesday night at Doltone House in Pyrmont, which was attended by more than 350 guests. The highlight was the naming of the club’s Team of 15 Years, which was dominated by their grand final-winning outfit.

Inductees included Brett Hodgson, Pat Richards, Paul Whatuira, Benji Marshall, Scott Prince, Anthony Laffranchi, Robbie Farah, John Skandalis, Ben Galea, Mark O’Neill, Liam Fulton, Todd Payten and Chris Heighington, who were all involved in the club’s first and only premiership, a 30-16 win over North Queensland. Other members selected were Chris Lawrence, Taniela Tuiaki, Aaron Woods and Gareth Ellis.

More than 10,000 votes were cast in recent months on the Tigers website to pick the team, which consisted of the best player in each position since the merger between Balmain and Western Suburbs.

Most of the selected players were in attendance. Marshall, the former New Zealand international now at St George Illawarra following an ill-fated stint in rugby, was unable to attend but sent a video message.

The side features an outstanding spine of Hodgson, Marshall, Prince and Farah, while the forwards are comprised mainly of the underrated pack that shocked the NRL en route to an unlikely grand final triumph. A one-of-a-kind artwork of the side was auctioned off on Wednesday night.

Australian mentor Tim Sheens has overseen the Tigers for much of their existence, coaching more matches than the club’s other three coaches – Terry Lamb, Wayne Pearce and Mick Potter – combined. Robbie Farah remains the most capped Tigers player with 213 appearances, a record he will add to when they take on Canterbury at ANZ Stadium on Sunday.

Liam Fulton was named at lock just a week after he announced he was retiring due to a series of concussions.

“The guys we won it with are the best blokes,” Fulton said last week.

“Growing up and watching Toddy Payten, Mark O’Neill, Ben Galea – these were blokes I used to look up to when I was 16 or 17. Then getting thrust in there by Sheensy was such a great experience.

“I thought to myself, ‘How easy is this?’ It was my first proper year in the NRL and I won a premiership. You think it’s going to happen every year. I still remember Mark O’Neill telling me how lucky I was, how he had played for 12 years and not even been involved in a semi.

“The longer I played the more I realised how hard the game is.

“Those guys took me out for lunch [recently] and talked to me about concussions, as good blokes would. They are things I’ll remember about this club, the great people I’ve met.”

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