Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has refuted speculation he was unaware Benji Marshall was pursuing Mitchell Pearce to gauge his interest in joining the embattled club. On Wednesday night, NRL 360 reporter James Hooper revealed the Wests Tigers were keen to bring the former State of Origin halfback home for a sensational return to the NRL.
Hooper reported the Tigers were pursuing Pearce on a $1.5 million, two-year contract. This was a culmination of the Tigers starting the season 0-4 and the form of Luke Brooks coming under scrutiny.
Brooks has come under fire for not having lived up to his reported $1.1 million price tag during the start of the 2023 season. His halves partner Adam Doueihi - despite shifting to fullback last week - has also struggled
And in an attempt to bring an experienced halfback to the club, Marshall recently contacted Pearce, who is playing for the Catalans Dragons in the UK Super League. However Pearce revealed on Thursday that he wants to stay put.
"I don’t really have much to say. Benji called me yesterday and I told him I’m contracted to Catalans,” Pearce told News Corp in a message on Thursday. “We are top of the table and I want to win a comp in Super League. That’s pretty much it.”
While there were reports there was 'disconnect' within the Tigers' hierarchy, Sheens said he endorsed Marshall's pursuit of the former State of Origin halfback. "We've been chasing a senior half for a while," Sheens said on Thursday.
"The conversation was had, he (Pearce) wasn't interested and he's on contract - Benji knows him. We've been dealing with Mitchell Moses and Cameron Munster ... It's not to replace him (Brooks). We don't stop recruiting in the middle of the year, it's an ongoing thing."
Another player that appears to be ready to test the open market is Jack Wighton. Wighton has reportedly told Canberra he wants to explore his options on the open market. The five-eighth is a one-club player and has been at Canberra for 14 years.
However, Sheens also played down speculation over the pursuit of the Canberra five-eighth. "We were getting calls saying, 'You've got to be interested'," he said. "It's automatically linked to us because we've been looking for a ball player."
Sheens said he would persevere with pairing Brooks with Brandon Wakeham and deploying Adam Doueihi at fullback. "They are our best two options, and Adam at the back; he's a smart player and it's our logical option," Sheens said.
Paul Kent blasts Tigers over 'desperate' Mitchell Pearce move
Despite the Wests Tigers' interest in Pearce, veteran NRL reporter Paul Kent wasn't a fan of the business and labelled the move as a 'desperate' attempt from a club that is struggling to win a game in 2023. “It stinks of desperation,” Kent said on NRL 360.
“What it does is it delays this whole five-year plan they’ve got. Every Tigers fan got sold on the five-year plan?
“Sheensy there for two years then Benji to take over for three more years and the best solution they come up with to fix their problems is to go to a halfback that hasn’t played in the competition for several years who is about to turn 34 years old, and chuck the two halves they’ve got out, one of which is on $1 million a year.”
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