'Going backwards': Legend's savage spray for 'laughing stock' club

·4-min read
Pictured here, legendary former coach Tim Sheens during his days in charge of the Tigers.
Legendary coach Tim Sheens has been touted as the man who can save the Wests Tigers. Pic: Getty

Legendary Tigers hooker Benny Elias says former coach Tim Sheens is the man to save his beloved club, after labelling the embattled joint-venture an NRL "laughing stock".

The Wests Tigers once again failed to make the finals in 2021 and suffered an embarrassing 38-0 defeat to the last-placed Bulldogs in their final match of the season.

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Speculation is mounting that Tigers coach Michael Maguire will be given the sack this week, with club chairman Lee Hagipantelis admitting there is a disconnect between investment and results.

Hagipantelis stressed on Monday that a decision on Maguire had not yet been determined, but the reality is another year out of the finals means the future is bleak for the Tigers coach.

Players were interviewed last week by club officials before Sunday's horror show against Canterbury, and a football department review is expected to be completed this week.

That will then be compiled for the next board meeting next month, but changes could come before then.

Elias was on the Tigers board when they issued an SOS to Sheens in 2002 to help fix a club considered a basket case.

The legendary coach famously came out of retirement and helped transform the club, before masterminding their famous 2005 NRL premiership triumph. 

Elias says even though the former Australia Test coach is now 70, he would be the perfect man to bring back the glory days to the Tigers.

“It’s virtually exactly the same situation now. The club’s a laughing stock, they can’t sign players, the loss to the Bulldogs on Sunday is the lowest performance I’ve ever seen from a Tigers side," Elias said on Fox Footy.

“Sheensy might be 70 but he knows what success looks like and he knows how to rebuild a club from the ground up.

“If you’re going to make the tough decision and get rid of Michael Maguire, in my opinion Tim Sheens is the man for the job.”

Wests Tigers players look dejected in this photo after their embarrassing hiding by the last-placed Bulldogs.
The Wests Tigers' disappointing season ended with an embarrassing hiding by the last-placed Bulldogs. Pic: Getty

Elias says he feels sorry for Maguire - whose intense man-manageement style has reportedly rubbed some players up the wrong way.

However, the Tigers great says results have left the club with little option but to cut ties with Maguire - despite the coach last year signing an extension until the end of the 2023 season.

Tigers admit changes are needed at club

"They’re going backwards. And there’s absolutely no reason for optimism for their legion of supporters given the fact they can’t sign any players," Elias added.

“If the Tigers had some big name signings coming like the Bulldogs then I’d say keep Madge and let’s see what he can do with a change of roster.

“But they don’t and it’s an indictment they’ve got $1.6 million to spend for next season and four spots available on the NRL roster and no one wants to go there.

“Sheensy can fix all of that. Madge must know he’s done all he can. The players clearly aren’t responding.

“If I was on the board I’d say to the club let’s offer Madge the opportunity to remain as an assistant to Sheensy and make Sheensy the head coach.

“If Madge doesn’t want to go for it well then the club’s got to make the tough decision.

“Madge has to remember, the club gave him everything he wanted this season in terms of increasing the amount of money they were spending on the NRL side.

“There’s no excuses. He was given everything he wanted.”

The Tigers have won just 38.2 per cent of games under Maguire in his three seasons in charge.

Seen here, Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire looks on during a training session with the NRL club.
Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire looks on during a training session with the NRL club. Pic: Getty

The Tigers' chairman admitted it would defy logic for there not to be changes in the club's football department after another finals miss, but said they could be "intrinsic or extrinsic".

Crucially though he claimed all other aspects of both the business and roster management had improved, with results the one clear exception.

Put to him that the assessment all but cleared other management such as CEO Justin Pascoe and left Maguire to bear the brunt, Hagipantelis responded: "I know what you're asking but I am not going to comment.

"We all accept responsibility for the results of the club, we are all in this together.

"But as I say the results do not bespeak the level of commitment of investment that has been made.

"And that's the question that has to be addressed."

with AAP

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