Written by Stuart McLennan
Incoming Wests Tigers Head of Football Performance Tim Sheens watched an insipid and embarrassing performance from his new/old club as he sat on the other side of the world on the weekend.
I’m not sure if he can read tea leaves in an English brew these days but the future looked bleak for the club by 20 minutes into the game.
It was all darkness on the Sunshine Coast for the joint venture club as the scoreboard at Kawana Waters went into a frenzy finally settling on a 66-16 score line in favour of a vastly superior Melbourne Storm side.
This may be the best, and the most difficult, opportunity for Sheens yet. The four-time premiership winning coach is arguably the most qualified person to transform a club that has felt that rock at the very bottom, to sustained success in years to come.
‘Shifty’ Sheens took Penrith to their first finals series as coach, before leading Canberra to a maiden premiership in 1989 and overseeing Wests Tigers first and only title in 2005.
The new role is described as overseeing recruitment, pathways, football administration and club culture.
It’s fair to say the former Australian team head coach knows what a winning culture looks like. Wests Tigers club legends Robbie Farah, Bryce Gibbs and Benji Marshall have all reflected on the tremendous bond the players felt during that successful year. The Tigers didn’t have the biggest, fastest or strongest roster but Sheens found a way of playing to their strengths to make what was ultimately the best team.
Despite scratchy at best NRL results, the Tigers have initiated activities that they hope will lead to a successful future. The building of a state of the art centre of excellence at Concord will assist with recruitment and development. The Jersey Flegg (Under 21) side is undefeated on top of the ladder while the NSW Cup team is sitting in the top three.
From what we understand a big part of Sheens’s role will be to develop, retain and ensure that the best juniors follow a pathway to the NRL side. It has been suggested that he will have control over roster management, an area that many believe has been a major contributor to Wests lack of success.
If Maguire embraces Sheens coming on board and there is a clear delineation of roles then there is no reason that this can’t be a successful alliance. For it to work Maguire will need the space to select and coach his squad. That said he would be foolish not to seek advice from the successful and experienced operator when necessary.
There is no doubt that this setup has been inspired by the Penrith club where previously Phil Gould oversaw an operation that can only be deemed a success. The rich Penrith junior nursery has been cultivated while nurturing a number of players from NSW country areas from junior representative sides through to the top grade.
Wests Tigers have two junior areas that have produced a large number of current first graders. The problem is many of those individuals represent rival teams.
The joint venture will rely on an old campaigner with a background at the foot of the mountains to ensure the Tigers best and brightest go on to represent the club at the highest level.
I am yet to experience COVID precautionary quarantine. From all reports it can be gruelling and tedious.
‘Shifty’ will have plenty of time over the next few weeks to draw up a blueprint.