How Tim Sheens turned the Wests Tigers’ season around
By Josh Massoud From: The Daily Telegraph September 21, 2010 12:00AM
WESTS Tigers’ finals charge traces back to a secret team meeting in May, when coach Tim Sheens implored his players to “bite, scratch and claw” their way to victory.
With the Tigers at an all-time low following their 50-10 flogging to Souths at the SCG in round 10, Sheens shelved his trademark attacking playbook in favour of a win-at-all-costs attitude.
The Daily Telegraph can reveal the new edict was delivered at a private talk the following week in Newcastle, where the Tigers set up an emergency camp to regroup after the shattering defeat.
“Tim usually looks for the positives out of a loss, and tends to concentrate more on the way the team is playing rather than the pure result,” a source close to the Tigers said.
“But after that loss to Souths he was different. He said to the players, ‘I don’t care what you have to do - bite, scratch, and claw - just win’. He was talking about that week’s game against the Knights, but they’ve played like that ever since.”
With Sheens’ words ringing in their ears, the Tigers chiselled out a 23-6 victory over Newcastle and have lost just five games, including two golden-point thrillers, since.
At their first field session ahead of Saturday night’s preliminary final against St George Illawarra, Tigers players yesterday spoke about their resolve to put substance over style in 2010.
“I remember that Souths game clearly, because we had so much to talk about and improve on the next week,” lock Chris Heighington recalled.
"We went into camp in Newcastle and spoke about playing for each other and winning with our defence.
"That win over Newcastle was when we came together as a team and we’ve built the season on that.
"It was a great win - but probably not one we’ve been known for over the past couple of years.
"We won ugly, but that doesn’t worry us. We’ve had a lot of wins like that this year.
“It’s all about getting the two points and making the semi-finals.”
Centre Chris Lawrence said the Rabbitohs debacle had reminded the team about competing harder - regardless of the scoreline.
“We started changing that last season when we lost a few games in a row but we were always competitive,” Lawrence said.
"In the past we’d concede soft tries at the end and be beaten heavily. And that’s what happened against Souths - it was back to what we didn’t want to be.
"We spoke the next week about how we just needed to win at all costs. We always played well in patches, but it’s unrealistic to play well for the entire 80 minutes.
“We had to find a way to hang in there when we weren’t playing well and come away with victory.”
Lawrence nominated the Tigers’ 16-14 victory over Brisbane at Suncorp Stadium in round 17 as the best example of the team’s new-found tenacity.
“That game really stands out for me,” he said.
"They were on top for most of the game and had us pinned in the corners.
“But we hung tough and got it down to the last five minutes, when we managed to pull off the win.”