Sheens’ men turn attack into defence
Glenn Jackson | August 21, 2009
Wests Tigers have turned the competition on its head with their six-match winning streak by apparently doing the same to rugby league logic.
Tucked in any coach’s play-book is the old mantra that defence is the best form of attack, but to Tim Sheens the reverse has led to the Tigers’ resurgence into fifth place.
Attack, claims Sheens, is the best form of defence for his topsy-turvy Tigers.
‘‘Your defence is energised by scoring points,’’ Sheens said yesterday. ''You’d be surprised how players play better when you’re scoring points.
‘‘Generally, our defence falls to bits when our attack makes a lot of mistakes. If you make mistakes, you do more defending. When you do more defending, we get in trouble, as does any side.’’
To continue the back-to-front nature of the Tigers, Sheens was at pains yesterday to talk down his side and the significance of tonight’s clash at the SFS with fellow form side Parramatta, themselves on a five-match streak.
‘‘What it is, is we’ve won games in a row,’’ Sheens said. ‘‘It doesn’t necessarily make you a form team. St George have won every game except one [since round 14], so why all of a sudden is it us? I don’t care what people say anyway.’’
Clearly taking his sips through a glass not even half empty, Sheens continued: ''I don’t think we’ve been as good as we should be in some aspects of our game. In saying that, we’ve managed to come up with some wins when we haven’t played well.
‘‘What we’ve done for six weeks isn’t going to win us the game [tonight]. It’s what we do [tonight] that’s going to win us the game. You’ve got to keep that in their heads. It’s a matter of keeping them focused and getting their heads out of the rear-vision mirror.’’
Clearly they are focused because the Tigers are well-versed when it comes to Sheens’s uncanny ability to understate.
‘‘We’re not going to be slitting our throats if we lose,’’ skipper Robbie Farah said.
But there was some gush amid the gloom. Sheens said he was ‘‘happy to be winning rather than losing’’. But then: ‘‘We’re not facing anything that we haven’t faced for six weeks.’’
Except Jarryd Hayne, of course, who just happens to be perhaps the best player in the world. But the Eels fullback has not dominated discussions in the video room like he has dominated his opponents.
‘‘Like any good fullback, you try to limit his ability to get into the game, but I’m not going to focus everything on shutting one man down,’’ Sheens said.
Sheens, though, does believe there are chinks in Hayne’s armour. ‘‘When he gets tired he seems to change with Luke Burt … he’s not the most aerobic fullback in the world, but he’s certainly an impact player,’’ he said.
‘‘But we’ve got no special plans, other than having a look at what his little idiosyncrasies are, what he likes to do and what he doesn’t like to do, and we’ll play to that a little bit. But it’s not a specific focus of our gameplan.’’
The Tigers’ Hayne-specific gameplan will be to limit the damage rather than prevent it.
‘‘Players like that, at some stage of the game they’re going to hurt you, and hopefully we can limit how much damage he does,’’ Farah said. ‘‘He definitely is a freak. He’s in the form of his career, and probably one of the best players going around, if not the best. But in saying that, one player doesn’t win you a game of footy.’’