Sheens channels '05 spirit
Steve Jancetic and Ben Horne
September 24, 2010 - 7:09PM
It may not be the emotional wave of 2005, but Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens is doing all he can to channel the energy from one of the greatest finals upsets of all-time ahead of Saturday night’s preliminary final rematch with St George Illawarra.
While much has changed in the five years since the Tigers bundled the Dragons out of the 2005 premiership race, one thing is all too familiar - the Tigers’ underdog status.
“We’d already over-achieved once we made the top four let alone the semis so everything was devil may care,” Sheens said of the Cinderella run.
“We didn’t care if we won or lost. We just turned up - if we were going to have a drink on the Monday, we were going to have a drink on the Monday and we just kept pushing those Mondays back.”
But while Sheens admits the stakes may be higher this time around, he admits the perception of his side hasn’t altered too much with the Dragons again heavy favourites.
“A lot of people didn’t rate us that we’d get there (in 2005) nor that we’d get this far (this year),” he said.
“So we’ve still got a little bit of what was there in 05.”
But that’s it as far as Sheens is concerned, the veteran coach adamant there was no mental advantage for his side heading into another game against the Dragons.
“I don’t think you really draw on that,” he said.
"It’s really what we’re doing at the moment rather than what we’re doing five years ago,.
"But the fact it was five years ago, the only benefit there of course is that they’ve had 100 games since then.
“So that’s the experience that you’ve gained and the team’s got a lot more experience on that basis.”
The win back in 2005 came in the midst of a purple patch of form for the Tigers in matches against the Dragons, when they won six of seven over a four-year period.
The Dragons have won the past two contests, including a 34-10 thumping at WIN Jubilee Oval in round 16 this year when the red and whites ran away with the game late.
“They scored just before halftime, in the last minute of the half and two tries in the last three minutes so it was 18 points there,” Sheens said.
"If you look at that in the scoreline, that’s something they just persevered and persevered and we just shut down.
“(We) just lacked that little bit of concentration so they’re the things you’ve got to concentrate on for 80. I expect in a semi-final to do a lot more of that than we did at Kogarah.”
The Tigers held a closed session at ANZ Stadium on Friday, with doubt still surrounding whether John Skandalis or Andrew Fifita would take injured prop Todd Payten’s spot in the squad.
Time to move on from '05, says Heighington
September 25, 2010
Chris Heighington will not forget 2005. But the Wests Tigers forward now craves something to sit alongside it on the mantle. ‘‘It’s time to make new memories, to be honest,’’ he said.
This week, of course, he has been confronted with some old ones. Tonight, he will face St George Illawarra in a preliminary final, which he did back in '05, before disposing of North Queensland in his, and his club’s, maiden grand final.
While reminiscing is always reassuring, the further away those memories are, the more you’re reminded of how lean the years have been since. Before this season, the Tigers had not played in a final since. Many have left, others have joined, and those who remain have grown up or older.
‘‘There’s five of us and four of them [the Dragons] who played that year,’’ he said. ‘‘They’ve got a new coach [Wayne Bennett], and they’re probably looking better than what they did back then. I think it’s going to be a harder game than that game in 2005 to win.’’
Few represent the maturing of the Tigers like Heighington. In 2005, he celebrated his grand final win with an expletive-riddled interview live on Channel Nine; he was young and brash and clearly just enjoying a premiership built on that very exuberance.
‘‘Was that me?’’ Heighington said this week. ‘‘It was one of those things. I didn’t know what I was doing. Your dream was to play NRL, and then you exceed that and make a grand final after probably 20 games of footy … I probably wasn’t ready for it. Matty Johns walks over and … I threw a couple of F-bombs out. I was so excited, I didn’t know what I was saying.’’
Now he is one of the most accomplished forwards in the competition, with one of the most accomplished sides in it. Of course, some recent memories haven’t been so kind to Heighington; it was he who squandered possession at the base of a scrum at the end of regulation time against the Roosters in the qualifying final. But he has tried to take a positive out of the experience, coming up with an alternative to the ‘‘you’ve got to be in it to win it’’ saying.
‘‘You got to be out there to make the mistake,’’ Heighington said. But he concedes the Tigers can’t make too many mistakes against the Dragons.
‘‘We’re going to have to put in one of our best performances to combat them,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a big challenge to beat them, but hopefully we can … I don’t think you can go into your shell against them. They’re obviously outstanding in defence, up the middle they’re good and out wide they really impress me. We’re going to have to show some of our best attack. Hopefully, 60 minutes into the game, we’re still in it and we can win the game from there. It’s going to be a big occasion.’’