There is no questioning the wealth of experience that comes with a man such as Tim Sheens. Nearing the ripe old age of 60, Sheens sits along side the likes of Wayne Bennett and Brian Smith as the elder statesmen of the clipboard ranks. He has a handful of Premierships and has seen almost every situation on the Rugby League field.
But will the added duties of the Australian coaching job in addition to his City Origin requirements hurt the Wests Tigers as they desperately try to secure a Top 8 finals berth for the first time in 4 years?
Not only will Sheens be away from his side for a handful of games throughout the year, of bigger concern is the fact that Sheens will get a big say in which players make up his City Origin and Kangaroos squad. This should ring alarm bells for Wests Tigers fans, it’s natural for a coach to push for some of his own players to get a gig in representative teams – he knows how they play, he trusts them and it gives the player added experience, something that in the longer term ultimately benefits club and player alike.
Wests have some players knocking at the door of stardom, youngsters Dean Collis and Chris Lawrence are two rising talents that could easily be drafted into the City Origin or Kangaroos team as ‘bolters’ – obviously with the influence of Sheens.
If something like this happens, you get a coaching and player drain at the Wests Tigers – making their 2009 NRL campaign that much more difficult.
Ricky Stuart used his position as Kangaroos coach to draft in Paul Gallen and Greg Bird, it may have improved the experience and stature of both players – but time away from club and added injury woes were the downside for their employer, the Sharks.
The other concern Wests Tigers fans should have is the added pressure that will weigh on Tim Sheens’ shoulders around Test time. While some mistakenly think that taking the Australian coaching role is a walk in the park, nothing could be further from the truth.
While the coach and Australian selectors have a wealth of talent to pick from, with that comes the expectation that the Roos will simply win every game easily.
The Kiwis and Lions both love being the underdog, it’s certainly been a thorn in the Roos side for several years now. The Rugby League World Cup a catalyst for the danger that comes with being the ‘tall poppy’.
Tim Sheens will almost certainly lose sleep over his Australian commitments, concern about selections and then ultimately about the backlash that will come with a loss. Sure, Sheens is Mr. Experience and will handle things better than most – but the Tigers will certainly feel some affects from their coaches added duties.
While Tim Sheens and the Wests Tigers continue to keep their critics at bay with the memories of winning the NRL in 2005 – they have ultimately failed for the last 3 years and for coach Sheens 2005 is actually the only time in over a decade of NRL coaching that he has managed to get his team into the Top 8 playoffs.
So while Sheens might have been the best man for the Australian Kangaroos coaching job and the majority of the Rugby League world accepted the decision positively, spare a thought for Wests Tigers fans – as the ramifications for them will be felt in the short term.