Tim Sheens is set to step down as the Wests Tigers head coach to allow assistant Benji Marshall take over in 2024 - one year ahead of plan. The Tigers have endured a woeful NRL season in 2023, despite hopes the duo of Sheens and Marshall would turn the club's fortunes around.
Despite the introduction of premiership winner Api Koroisau as club captain, the Tigers have slumped to 17th and are all set for their second wooden spoon in as many years. And in a bombshell twist on Wednesday, it came to light that Sheens will step down one year early to allow Marshal to take over.
Sheens was expected to run the club until the end of 2024 after taking over from Michael Maguire, which would see him guide Marshall into the role. The veteran coach was then going to return as general manager to help Marshall.
Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis said Sheens had taken the decision of his own volition. The club was approached last week 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."
NRL fans react to Tim Sheens news at the Tigers
Sheens is expected to move into an ambassador role for the club at the end of the season. The Tigers have only won three of their 21 games this season. Sheens won the 2005 premiership with the Tigers, while Marshall was five-eighth at the time.
NRL fans reacted to the news with Sheens stoically copping the brunt of the criticism for a team that has struggled for many years.
Wests Tigers have knifed a good man in Tim Sheens - yet the CEO and chairman who have over-seen this sh*t show survive... again. pic.twitter.com/31hKPS4J95
— The Mole (@9_Moley) August 16, 2023
Tim Sheens obviously not the right choice for head coach at @WestsTigers but, gee, he stoically stood there and took a heap of bullets that could have been aimed at Benji.
And not even Wayne Bennett or Craig Bellamy could make a success of them with that Board & CEO.#NRL
— Johnny (Brackets) (@Johns_Analytics) August 16, 2023
So what was the point of Tim sheens at the tigers if they are just axing him completely….ridiculous
— Sally (@SallyGearing) August 15, 2023
Only recently, Sheens moved to quell rumours that Marshall was running the show at the Tigers in recent weeks. When asked in July if he's still the head coach and will be next year, Sheens replied: “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.”
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.
And recently, leading NRL journalist Michael Chammas claimed 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."
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