Benji Marshall was reportedly 'over-ruled' by Wests Tigers bosses, who made the decision to sack assistant coach David Furner with one year remaining on his contract. Furner, a respected former NRL player and head coach, was a loyal assistant of Tim Sheens, but has become the latest victim of a coaching clean-out at the embattled club.
Earlier this week it emerged that Furner, who worked as defensive coach this year, had been given his marching orders despite being under contract for the 2024 season. Furner paid the price for the Tigers' dismal season in which they claimed a second-straight wooden spoon.
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According to NRL insider 'The Mole', Furner had been promised a job by Marshall when Benji took over from Sheens as head coach. But Marshall was reportedly over-ruled, and Furner was sent packing.
Furner played 200 games for the Canberra Raiders in the NRL, as well as 58 for Wigan and 52 for Leeds in the English Super League. He also coached Canberra for 109 games and was in charge at Leeds for 15 games, and has worked as an assistant at the Bulldogs, Knights, Rabbitohs and Tigers.
His departure comes after Sheens was removed from the head coaching role one year ahead of schedule to make way for Marshall. Sheens was originally meant to mentor Marshall this year and next, but Benji will now take over the head-coaching role with immediate effect.
Would have thought coming last had something to do with it.
— Domingo (@plundermonkey1) September 13, 2023
Basket case club.
— Mark Wright (@crustybakerinoz) September 13, 2023
Don’t forget about us getting Scott Fulton!!
Shame about David Furner however we had dismal performances under his defensive coaching.
Defense = the thing around the field. 🏈😈😇 https://t.co/p9MvQXkYl4
— Beges007OAM (@beges007) September 14, 2023
Did Tim Sheens step down or was he sacked?
The club's recruitment manager Warren McDonnell, dubbed Sheens' "right hand man", has also followed him and Furner out the door in recent months. While the club insists Sheens offered to stand down so Marshall could take over, rumours have been circulating that he was sacked.
The former coach was conspicuously absent from the Tigers' end-of-season awards night last week, and was happy to wear a Panthers hat at an old boys' function before Penrith's clash with the Cowboys in round 27. Despite technically still being the Tigers' coach at the time, Sheens was spotted wearing a Panthers hat at the reunion of former players.
“Why would you go?” fellow Panthers great Royce Simmons told the Sydney Morning Herald about Sheens snubbing the presentation night. “If you weren’t wanted at the club, how could you go to their presentation night?
“They sacked him. And I can only imagine how frustrated Tim is. It’s sad to see. He wasn’t given the opportunity to do what he wanted to do. You bring a coach back who has won a premiership, and is in the top bracket of coaches of all time, you look to his expertise, then you don’t use it. It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis previously denied claims Sheens was sacked, saying the club was approached by Sheens' manager Chris Orr to discuss a possible restructuring. "It was following that outreach that these conversations were undertaken, all with Tim's engagement and blessing," Hagipantelis told AAP.
"Tim has anointed Benji as ready to step up into the head coaching role. It's very amicable and professional as it should be. Suggestions, which I've read, about us terminating or knifing Tim are demeaning to all involved."
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