NRL 360 panellists Paul Kent and Phil Rothfield have pinpointed the eye-opening moment that suggests Benji Marshall was in charge of the Wests Tigers on Monday, rather than head coach Tim Sheens. The Tigers produced a markedly better performance against Parramatta but ultimately went down 28-22.
The loss consigned the Tigers to their first 0-6 start in club history, however there appears to be a glimmer of hope to come from the defeat. Sheens' men looked much better than they have in recent losses to the Broncos and Storm, and got within two points of last year's grand finalists until a late try ended their hopes of a comeback.
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Dissecting the game on NRL 360 on Monday night, Kent pointed out that Marshall appeared to be in charge of the team when cameras cut to the Tigers' coaching box late in the game. Marshall could be seen with the headset on, sending orders down to the field as Sheens looked on from the back of the box, not saying a word.
According to Kent, it was a sign that Sheens is taking more of a backseat and grooming Marshall to eventually become the head coach. Sheens was signed to a two-year deal late last season, with Marshall and Robbie Farah working under him as assistants. The plan is for Sheens to impart his wisdom on Marshall, who will take over the reins in 2025.
“I think Tim Sheens is sitting back and essentially just managing things,” Kent said. “He’s come in under this idea he has to educate these young guys to eventually succeed him as head coach and I don’t see anything wrong with him at different points just handing over and letting them have a little bit of control.
“When Tim Sheens was at the Raiders he would call in players such as Laurie Daley, Ricky Stuart and Mal Meninga and get them to help him with the game plan for that week. He wanted input from them about what they are seeing and how they think they could beat whoever they were playing that week.
“And you just have to look at the players who have since come out of his system who have been good head coaches. He does put a lot of trust in those around him. He did it when he was back at the Raiders and now he’s doing it at the Tigers with his assistant coaches.
“The other person in the Tigers box is David Furner, his contribution would be significant and what Furner says would be significant and Sheensy, who coached him as a player, would have a lot of trust about him.”
Wests Tigers heading in the right direction
Rothfield, who previously declared the Sheens-Marshall combination "wasn't working", said the Tigers would have won more games if they'd produced Monday's performance in previous outings. “I was really happy for the Tigers to give their fans a little bit of hope, they way they competed at least,” Rothfield said.
“You look back at their draw to start, and if they’d played the way they did today against the Titans, the Knights and the Bulldogs, three games that were winnable, they’d be in a much better position on the ladder.”
Despite the improved performance, the Tigers face more headaches after losing Adam Doueihi to a suspected ACL tear. It would be the third time he was torn the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"Given the narrowness of the game, the loss and all the other things and the contribution he put in, he's pretty disappointed," Sheens said of Doueihi. "Most of the bounces went against us in many ways. But I'm very, very proud of the effort they put in."
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