Sheens focused on top-four NRL finish
August 31, 2011 - 4:54PM
Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens is banking on his players using the experiences of last season to lock up a top-four NRL finals spot.
The Tigers moved up to fourth spot on the ladder following their seventh successive win, a 39-10 victory over the Gold Coast on Monday, and St George Illawarra’s defeat of the Warriors on Sunday.
The 2005 premiers will almost certainly secure a home final with victory over Cronulla at Toyota Stadium on Saturday.
However, defeat could potentially see the joint-venture slip to seventh spot and Sheens said his players are fully aware of the importance of controlling their own destiny.
Sheens’ side finished third last year, but lost their opening game of the finals to the Sydney Roosters in an epic clash at the Sydney Football Stadium, only to bounce back and beat Canberra before losing to St George Illawarra in the preliminary final.
“Cronulla is a game we can’t afford to slip up on and count it already as a win,” Sheens said.
"Although we have won our last few games, we have been up and down and need to be a lot stronger this week.
“It is not so much the home game, it is the option of a second chance. I’ve reminded everyone about the Roosters game last season … it is very important to get that second opportunity as we did last year at Canberra and found ourselves in a grand final qualifier.”
The Tigers have been the form team in the NRL for the past two months, seeing off the Dragons and Manly in their blistering recent run, and the four-time premiership-winning coach insists they must maintain their ruthless streak.
“A month ago, we were tipped not to win any games and we did. Now we are tipped to win and everyone is waiting for us to slip up,” he said.
"Wests Tigers’ sides of old have slipped up. We haven’t so far, so this game becomes crucial now.
"We have sneaked into the four so we want to maintain it and not just finish in the eight.
"We have a window, with St George beating the Warriors, it gave us a great opportunity to get a top-four spot.
“But that increases the pressure against what will be a near full-strength Cronulla side.”
Sheens conceded he was concerned about his side’s relatively easy run towards the finals, in which they overcame Penrith, Parramatta and the Titans in the past three weeks, but said he’d been hammering the message to his players about the importance of a strong finish to the season.
“I spoke to them in camp a few weeks ago ahead of the last four games about how important it was to win games and strive for top-four even though it was something many thought we couldn’t achieve,” Sheens said.
"Experiences are everything in every form of life but human nature means sometimes we don’t learn from them.
"I’ve reminded them enough but, in this business, opportunities don’t present themselves too much.
“If you’re presented with it and blow it because you haven’t prepared, then you have yourself to blame.”