Leading NRL journalist Michael Chammas has revealed how the relationship between Benji Marshall and Tim Sheens "deteriorated pretty badly" in the past, resulting in an awkward situation at the Wests Tigers this season. Marshall is an assistant coach under Sheens but will take over the head coaching role in 2025.
Sheens is effectively a caretaker for the position until Marshall completes his apprenticeship, but they reportedly haven't been seeing eye-to-eye. Earlier this year, Paul Kent reported that Marshall and Sheens "aren’t agreeing on everything", and Chammas has now lifted the lid on how their relationship broke down.
Marshall played under Sheens at the Tigers from 2003 to 2012, before the coach was sacked at the end of the 2012 season. Sheens was reportedly left suspicious that the senior playing group (which included Marshall) might have had a hand in his departure.
Their relationship broke down as a result, making for some difficult conversations as Marshall was appointed Sheens' assistant this year along with Robbie Farah. “One thing I think Benji is mindful of is his relationship with Tim Sheens deteriorated pretty badly as a player and coach,” Chammas said on Triple M radio.
“They probably won’t admit it but I remember going to Tim Sheens when we did a special piece for Benji’s 300th game - Tim Sheens didn’t want to give a tribute to Benji Marshall. I don’t think things ended well and I don’t know if Tim felt as though Benji or the senior players there had a part in his demise or not. But whatever the reason was, there wasn’t a relationship that was there. They didn’t speak for many years."
Chammas said Marshall has been going out of his way to make sure things are all good with Sheens, which has contributes to the club's poor results. “I think Benji wants to make sure Tim feels like he’s got his respect and he’s not trying to white-ant him and it’s not the case at all," Chammas said.
"To be honest with you, from what I hear, Benji is going over and beyond to make sure Tim feels like he’s running the club, that it’s to the detriment of the actual team. Benji just needs to take control. I respect Benji for that because Tim has done a lot for him in his career and he wants to make sure that Tim finishes off on the right note, whatever that may be.”
Tim Sheens insists he's still Wests Tigers head coach
Sheens has taken more of a backseat role in recent months, allowing Marshall to call the shots during Tigers games. When asked last month if he was still the head coach, Sheens responded: “Yes I am. Yes. That’s what my contract says.
“I’ve been around long enough to hear the noise and navigate through the noise. If you win games that shuts the noise down.
“I’m first grade coach and as with most clubs they have attack coaches and defensive coaches and Benji does attack. I’m educating them and giving them some rein or some ability to create what they want to create within the group.
“It’s no different to most clubs. The senior coach does more a managerial role in many ways. That doesn’t mean I’m not picking the team or not involved in picking the team. I am.”
Tigers hierarchy may be forced to change their initial plans of having Sheens mentor Marshall in 2023 and 2024 as well. Many have called for Marshall to be given complete control so he can attempt to turn around the club's fortunes.
The joint-venture club look destined to claim their second-consecutive wooden spoon, sitting dead-last on 12 points with four rounds remaining - four points adrift of the Dragons in 16th. It would mark the first time in history that a team has finished last and still dropped down the ladder the next season (there were 16 teams in 2022 and 17 in 2023).
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