Mr Sheens adds much needed shine to Tigers reputation

04 Dec 21, 3:09PM 0 Comments

Written by Stuart McLennan

Photo by News Corp

At the end of the 2021 season, after a particularly lacklustre performance and big loss against the wooden spooners, the Wests Tigers were rugby league mainstream media’s focus for all the wrong reasons.

The club was a basket case, the coach, board and management needed to be sacked and no player worth his salt would even consider signing with the joint venture club, according to multiple daily media reports.

The coach, management and board somehow survived the media blitz but it seemed a matter of when rather than if for all concerned.

Less than one month ago, like John Wayne entering town for a shoot out, the man who took the Wests Tigers to their last finals series a decade previous, walked into Concord fresh from the north of England where he held a number of coaching and administrative roles.

Many would say that his first job would be to polish a turd given targeted players apparent reluctance to sign on at the club.

The premiership winning coach actually struck his first blow while he was still on the other side of the world, working via Zoom when he said local junior Luke Brooks would not be leaving the club early.

“Luke is a proud local junior and an extremely talented halfback, who has shown an unquestionable level of commitment to Wests Tigers over a number of years,” Sheens said.

“It is clear that he remains an integral part of the long-term plans of Wests Tigers.”

This signalled a different approach for the club who had frankly struggled to place a clear and strong voice in the media, with many ‘sources close to the club’ quotes littering the endless Luke Brooks is on the way out stories.

Sheens is now the authoritative media spokesperson over CEO Justin Pascoe and Chair Lee Hagipantellis who seem more suited to focussing on the commercial side of the football club.

He immediately reinstated controversial recruitment manager Warren McDonnell who the club moved on in the past.

The combination of Sheens, Maguire and McDonnell has paid immediate dividends after snaring 2021 Dally M Second Rower of the year Isaiah Papali’i on a three-year deal and NSW Origin hooker Apisai Koroisau. Koroisau is a two time premiership winner, at Souths under Maguire and Penrith this year. At this stage, both will commence at the club for the 2023 season.

According to reports, Wests remain firmly in the mix to recruit Nick Cotric, Luke Thompson and promising young Cowboys backrower Jeremiah Nanai after Luciano Leilua signed with the North Queensland club from 2023 onwards.

The club has changed the approach under Sheens, while clearly looking to improve the roster, they are not throwing desperate money at any player on the market (Josh Addo Carr, Latrell Mitchell) rather they are putting a cap on offers. This new found resolve saw the club walk away from negotiations with the Canberra Raiders for Josh Hodgson when the price remained too high.

The club recently announced the signing of former NSW under 18s representative and Junior Wallaby Junior Tupou, who will join the club alongside Jackson Hastings, Tyrone Peachey and Oliver Gildart for the 2022 season.

Sheens has indicated that next season will be about sorting through the weeds (and there are plenty) but, given the recruitment, a return to the finals in 2023 may not be out of the question.

The man who coached the joint venture to their only premiership still has a lot of work to do before fans can breathe a sigh of relief but it appears to be heading in a positive direction.

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