Matty Johns has warned Benji Marshall that he risks immediate failure as head coach of the Wests Tigers unless he surrounds himself with the right people. The Tigers confirmed this week that Marshall will take from Tim Sheens in 2024 - one year ahead of schedule.
Marshall was originally meant to work under Sheens for two seasons before taking over in 2025. But that plan has been fast-tracked and Marshall will be the main man next year.
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Discussing the move on Thursday night, Johns said it would be 'crucial' for Marshall to surround himself with experienced heads like Sheens, who was “shielding the bullets". While Sheens has still been acting as head coach this year, many believe Marshall had all-but taken over already.
“This is a huge job for Benji Marshall because he hasn’t had a lot of coaching experience and you would think almost certain they will start 2024 as wooden spoon favourites,” Johns said on The Late Show with Matty Johns. “Number one he needs stability and number two he’s got to be surrounded by experience. It’s crucial."
Gorden Tallis said: “That’s what Tim Sheens was there for. There’s no one that doesn’t want the Tigers back on top, but Benji hasn’t coached before so he’ll pretty much be put to the sword. I hope the Tigers and Benji are successful but I thought he was doing a bit of coaching and Tim was shielding the bullets but next year that’s not going to be there.”
Johns added: “I think sometimes these days the younger coaches, they always just hire X’s and O’s guys. I think sometimes a younger coach needs someone who knows what the pressure is about, can alleviate pressure off the coach, off the players. Almost someone just to lean on.
“I don’t know what type of coach Benji is, I’d suspect he’s a pretty good man-manager. If you are going to have a coaching staff you want someone who is really good with the tactics but you need someone there you can lean on who is very good with the players.”
Benji Marshall on hunt for assistant coach at Wests Tigers
The Tigers have endured a season from hell and look destined to claim the wooden spoon for the second-straight year. It would make them the first team in the NRL era to finish last and still go down the ladder the next season (there were 16 teams in 2022 and 17 in 2023).
Marshall has never held a head coaching position at NRL level and will be on the hunt for an assistant to fill the role he is vacating. Former Cronulla coach John Morris, who shares the same management company as Sheens, has been mooted as a possible assistant to add to Marshall's coaching staff.
"I am humbled by Tim's endorsement as the future and long-term head coach of Wests Tigers," Marshall said in a statement on Wednesday. "To be the head coach of Wests Tigers has been a long-held dream of mine since retiring from playing. I am very grateful for the opportunity to take on the role and I am indebted to Tim for all that he has taught me, both as a player and as an assistant coach."
Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis was adamant Sheens made the decision to walk away of his own volition. "As a club we could not be happier with what Tim has done for us in terms of transitioning Benji," Hagipantelis told AAP.
"Tim was engaged for a particular purpose and that was to transition Benji. Tim feels that transition is complete and Benji is ready to step up. He takes the view that if you're good enough, you're old enough and he takes the view that Benji is ready."
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