Written by Zack Wilson
Photo by REX Features
It was confirmed earlier this week that Tim Sheens had been removed from his post as coach at Hull Kingston Rovers.
After the woeful first-half performance in the Challenge Cup defeat to Warrington Wolves last Friday night, and the Robins’ continued flirtation with the bottom reaches of Super League after a poor run of form, it comes as no real surprise that Sheens has gone.
A club statement read:
“The Australian spent two-and-a-half seasons at KCOM Craven Park, lifting the club from the Championship back up to the Betfred Super League in his first year, before consolidating the team’s status in the 2018 campaign.
“Sheens took charge of 84 games, winning 47 matches, drawing two and losing 35.
“A recent run of six defeats in seven league games during the current campaign, which leaves the club sat next to the bottom of the league, and an exit from the Coral Challenge Cup at the weekend, has prompted a change.”
One of the main issues last Friday against Wire seemed to be in the dummy half position, where Danny Addy never looked comfortable at all.
Addy is a great rugby league player, a man who can excel in a number of different positions, including hooker.
But last Friday evening he looked incredibly uncomfortable at dummy half, like a man who has barely played there.
He looked like a second rower playing out of position, which is not usual for a man who has played in the halfback role at international level for Scotland.
That lack of confidence in a player whom Sheens holds in such high regard is a worrying sign, an indication that perhaps the magic is not working anymore.
The way that Rovers huffed and puffed their way through the first half of the game against the Wolves, battering away for set after set on the Wire line when Warrington were down to 11 men, was also deeply troubling.
While things improved in the second half, there was still at times an incoherence in attack, which is even more baffling when you look at the creative personnel Rovers can deploy.
Danny McGuire, Josh Drinkwater, Chris Atkin and Craig Hall all know how to open up opposition defences, and did combine beautifully for one second half try on Friday evening.
But for most of the game they looked clueless, especially the halves pairing of McGuire and Drinkwater.
That two such experienced, high-quality players struggled to find their A games for most of the match should certainly be troubling Neil Hudgell and the rest of the club’s hierarchy.
What will worry many at the club is that the same issues that have dogged the team for the last half decade don’t seem to be any closer to being resolved.
Inconsistency within games has been a maddening characteristic of the Robins’ displays over the last few seasons, something that was seen once again against Warrington in the Cup defeat last week.
Concentration is often lacking, and execution of skills can vary from the outstanding to the dreadful, often for the same player in the same game.
That the Rovers seem no closer to solving those recurring issues of consistency and concentration is perhaps the nub of why Sheens ended up heading out the exit door.
Rovers need a reinjection of momentum. They function best as a club when they have a charismatic coach with a big personality who knows how to handle the massive expectations from the fans.
So it looks like they might have found the right man in the shape of former Warrington coach Tony Smith.
The 52-year-old also seems to have a pretty good idea of the type of issues currently facing his new team.
“I want to help the players to be as good as they can be both individually and as a team,” Smith told Rovers’ official website.
“I want to instil some confidence in areas where it’s needed and practice in those areas too. With the talent available, there’s a good, strong chance of climbing the ladder to a place which is far greater to where we are at this moment.
“I’m looking forward to that journey and development of players.”
The club confirmed on Thursday evening that Smith would be taking over as the head coach until the end of the 2019 season.
This shows a clear message of intent, at least for the short-term, with the club desperate to avoid the drop into the Championship.
The former Great Britain coach certainly has the charisma and experience for a job like the Rovers one.
Whether this is will turn into a more long-term arrangement remains to be seen, but it is good to have Smith back in Super League.