Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens is almost certain to finalise a new two-year deal with the Tigers within the next week after the club’s board last night gave its backing to re-sign him.
The Herald understands that negotiations between chief executive Stephen Humphreys and Sheens are so far advanced that last night’s board approval, the final hurdle in the way of a deal, means the signing of the contract is a formality, giving the Tigers a big boost before tomorrow night’s clash with South Sydney.
Humphreys, who has been negotiating with Sheens since late last year, recommended the board re-sign the game’s longest-serving coach, and the directors gave in-principle approval. Effectively, Humphreys now has board approval to finalise the deal, and, with Sheens having all but decided to extend his tenure with the club, it looks a done deal.
Sheens’ signature will end the speculation surrounding his future and will ensure the players are settled and happy. Five-eighth Benji Marshall has played under only one coach in the NRL team and told the Herald recently he wanted the club to sign Sheens until for the remainder of his career. Marshall is contracted to the club until the end of 2015 but will be content, like the rest of the players, with a two-year extension for the 622-game coach, who was off contract at the end of the season.
Humphreys is a huge fan of Sheens’, and it was always assumed that provided the coach was happy, he would re-sign. There had been links between Sheens and South Sydney but they died down in recent months as the club chased Wayne Bennett. Souths are still fighting for Bennett’s signature, along with the more highly fancied Brisbane and Newcastle, but Souths’ back-up now seems to be an untried head coach, at least in the NRL, Wigan’s former Melbourne assistant Michael Maguire.
Sheens coached the Tigers to their only premiership as a merged entity, in 2005, but had come under pressure after the club failed to reach the finals in four consecutive seasons. Sheens signed a one-year contract last season, but after the club’s success last year, Humphreys began negotiations to extend his tenure.
The Tigers were defeated by the eventual premiers St George Illawarra by one point in the preliminary final last year in a match that went to the final minute. Officials no doubt see a golden opportunity to win a premiership in the next few seasons with a relatively young roster and have decided that a change in coach might offer more problems than solutions.
Meanwhile, Paul Vautin, who knows a thing or two about winning against the odds in State of Origin, has described NSW coach Ricky Stuart’s declaration that he would be happy to win one game of this year’s series as ‘‘the greatest smother in rugby league history’’.
Vautin coached Queensland in 1995, when the Maroons were given next to no chance of winning the three-match series. They had lost most of their stars because of the Super League war.
‘‘Ricky Stuart is one of the most ferocious competitors in the history of the game,’’ Vautin said. ''He was like that as a player and he’s the same way as a coach. You only had to see him on the sideline during the Channel Nine coverage, when he was coaching the Roosters or the Sharks, to know how much he hated it when things went wrong for his team and they didn’t win.
‘’‘Sticky’ saying he would be happy to win just one game of the Origin series, which effectively means he would cop losing the series OK, is the same as Glen Boss saying he would be happy to not ride a group 1 winner during the autumn.’