As a Tigers' fan I am not quite sure what to expect from the returning Jamal Idris in 2017. However, for a side lacking in star power in the centres and back row, it is a risk worth taking for a club looking to take the next step from flashy, potential side to a consistent finals' outfit. Jason Taylor is a coach off-contract and under pressure to deliver a finals' berth to the Tigers in his third season. With little money in terms of marquee signings to play with, I think Taylor saw Idris as potentially a player that can add to a roster with a few holes in it, despite having a heap of young talent and strike power.
In recent interviews Idris seems a man finally at peace with himself as he smiles warmly and talks passionately about his recent travels. Idris seems far more content and satisfied to be back in the NRL than the restless and confused personality that left the game after falling out of love with all that went with it. Whilst it's great to see the big fella's infectious personality smiling and joking around with the press, whether it equates to the killer instinct to become supreme athlete again and for the intense collisions and all the hype and hoopla that goes being a big personality in the NRL, is another matter.
Idris looked heavy, to put it mildly, on returning to pre-season training, however has reportedly already lost 5kg and is ripping into training. If Jamal stays fit I think he can be a weapon for the Tigers. What I worry about is whether, if there are a few setbacks like injuries or poor form, he has that intense drive to overcome them and make it back to near his Representative best. Over 12 months out of the game would have been great for his mind, however with the athletes of the NRL only getting bigger, stronger, faster and younger, you can quickly find yourself yesterday's man and a yard behind the pace, and that's what Idris will have to contend with. The power game that he plays can still be effective, however, if he wants to be playing centres, he will have to be able to play 80 minutes at a high level of fitness and that might be a question mark. Even the back row these days demands at least 60-minutes high quality work rate and heavy collisions.
The Tigers have plenty of talent in their spine, however could do with a bit more presence in the line up in terms of size and power on the goal line in particular. Whilst their front row rotation holds up pretty well, they lack punch on the edges, and someone who can strike fear into the opposition. Idris at his best is a barnstorming runner of the ball, capable of an offload or pulling off a big hit in defence. Wests have really struggled to protect the likes of Mitchell Moses and Luke Brooks in defence on the goal line, and having a big body like Idris next door might help them. Also Moses and Brooks have great ability to ball play and rather than having to sweep out the back to the heavily marked Tedesco all the time, having a genuine "crash ball" option to Idris will give teams another headache to deal with.
Whatever happens with Idris it is good to see a big personality back in the game and ready to have another crack at it. The Tigers are an interesting side to watch even at the worst of times, with their free wheeling style and exuberance of youth. Channel Nine obviously agree, with the Tigers awarded a huge amount of free to air exposure in the recently completely draw in 2017. However ratings won't count for coach Jason Taylor, who needs victories and more than 12 of them to keep his job beyond the season.