Tim Sheens takes aim at NRL hierarchy as 165-year first comes to light
The Wests Tigers coach couldn't hide his frustration at the situation in round three of the NRL.
Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has hit out at the NRL's top brass after a third round that saw several games played in extreme heat. Sheens' side saw their winless start to season extend to three games against Canterbury on Sunday, courtesy of a rollercoaster 26-22 loss against the Bulldogs at a sweltering Belmore Oval.
The game kicked off with the mercury at 32 degrees, prompting the NRL to enact an extreme heat policy. That meant players enjoyed a short drinks break midway through both halves, while the halftime break was extended to 20 minutes.
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Extra trainers were also allowed on the field during the match to provide players with water throughout the contest. However, there was no move from the NRL to push the game back, despite Sydney experiencing four days of temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius in March for the first time in 165 years.
It was interesting to see heat policies being implemented in today’s NRL match at Belmore! An additional drinks break at 20 minutes of each half. Extra 5 minute break during half time and an extra trainer was allowed on the field to provide water to the players for both teams. pic.twitter.com/UzKZETZAQP
— Gurpreet Singh (@GSingh_100) March 19, 2023
@PhilGould15 hey gus what a win for the bulldogs!! Will you put in some feedback to the club and NRL about the umbrella scenario today at belmore it was 35 degrees and security was telling everyone to put down and stop using the umbrellas! This is so wrong as it was so hot today!
— Lfc4lyf (@Lfc4lyf12) March 19, 2023
We won a match at Belmore. Imagine sitting in such hot temperatures and losing from that far in front.
Dehydration, heatstroke, sunburn but thankfully we got the 2 points#NRLBulldogsTigers#proudtobeabulldog#BacktoBelmore
— Everybody Wang Chung Tonight !🇳🇴🇮🇸🇬🇩 (@Yes_IamSancho) March 19, 2023
Thoughts and thoughts to everyone on the hill at Belmore today. It is stinking hot. The sort of weather that should be illegal. Bring a hat, stock up on water and get on the OVERS #NRLBulldogsTigers
— Martin Gabor (@MartinJGabor) March 19, 2023
When asked about the unseasonably hot conditions and whether more could have been done to protect the welfare of the players, Sheens pulled no punches. The veteran coach said he thought it was crazy to expect the players to perform under such oppressive conditions, and called on the NRL to consider alternatives in future.
"That's for the league to consider," Sheens said when asked if the game should have been delayed. "We talk about the welfare of all the players with everything else. We've had to graduate them back to training because of the World Cup.
"Then we stick them back on in these conditions. I think you get the feeling of my view on it, but I am not going to make a public statement on it."
Questions raised over NRL's heat policy
Canberra coach Ricky Stuart posed similar concerns after round one, after being left aggrieved that there was no objection to his team being asked to play a 4:30pm game in Townsville. Sunday's NRL match was not the only sporting event in Sydney, with an AFL clash between GWS and Adelaide played in the early afternoon at Homebush.
The NRL has proven through the Covid-19 pandemic that there is flexibility when it comes to rescheduling fixtures at late notice, with debate around the NRL's heat policy sure to gather steam. During the thick of the pandemic, crowds were not a factor and the NRL was still able to fulfil a Sunday afternoon match for free-to-air broadcaster, Nine.
The NRL also pushed back the start of pre-season matches this year, but in that case there was again no free-to-air hurdle to clear. Other competitions - such as football's A-League - have previously opted to delay the start of games during the summer due to heat.
Canterbury coach Cameron Ciraldo said despite the criticism from his Tigers' opposite, he shared no such concerns about the NRL's decision to schedule matches in stifling heat. "We knew we were playing at these times all pre-season, so we trained at these times," Ciraldo said. "We prepared the best we can for it."
Conditions were even worse for the NSWRL-run NSW Cup match on before the NRL, which kicked off at 1:35pm (AEDT) with the "feels-like" temperature at 38C. Players were left distressed while a ground announcer regularly reminded fans to be sun safe and see medical professionals if required.
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