Michael Cheika speculation prompts Wests Tigers boss to fire back

Lee Hagipantelis attempted to clarify the situation.

Benji Marshall reacts and Michael Cheika smiles.
Reports have emerged the West Tigers have added Michael Cheika (pictured) as a potential target for the head of football role. (Getty Images)

Wests Tigers chair Lee Hagipantelis has attempted to quell reports the club are looking at current Argentina and former Wallabies coach Michael Cheika as a potential candidate for the head of football role. The Tigers board held a meeting on Monday and it is believed Mark O'Neill, a former NRL player who won the premiership with the club in 2005, is favoured to take over the role.

O'Neill currently works in a similar role at the Parramatta Eels. However, if the O'Neill appointment doesn't pan out the Tigers are reported to be interested in Cheika, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Having coach Lebanon to a World Cup quarter-final, Cheika finishes up with Argentina after this current Rugby Union World Cup. Cheika has worked with Trent Robinson at the Roosters and has expressed desire to work more in the rival code.

The Tigers haven't appointed anyone into the head of football position since Tim Sheens moved from this role into the coaching role 12 months ago. Benji Marshall is now head coach and will lead the team in 2024.

However, a decision on the head of football won't be made until the board hear back from an external review into the club's operations. And while reports have emerged of Cheika interest, Hagipantelis appeared on SEN Radio to quell the hype around such a appointment right now.

“I am told that Cheika is of very good character and people speak very highly of him,” Hagipantelis said. “As to the Wests Tigers head of football role, all the applicants and candidates are being considered on a strictly private and confidential basis.

“Yet again, here we are talking about things being reported in the paper to my consternation. It’s just beyond me to explain this... There are a number of qualified applicants that have put themselves in the picture and we had a board meeting on (Monday) night."

Wests Tigers slump to embarrassing new low

Benji Marshall took over for three games before the end of the year after Sheens' departure, but the Tigers were absolutely humiliated in round 27 against Manly 54-12 to end the season on a new low. The Tigers finished with just four wins and with a for-and-against of -290.

This saw the Tigers become the first team in the NRL era to get the wooden spoon and still go down the ladder the following year. They finished 16th in 2022 and 17th in 2023 due to the Dolphins' inclusion.

In terms of the ARL era, the last team to go down the ladder after winning the spoon was the Western Suburbs Magpies, who finished 13th in 1987 and 16th in 1988. Wests famously united with the Balmain Tigers to form the Wests Tigers in 1999.

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