Win streak gives Sheens’ men belief
September 11, 2011
BEFORE his side notched a club record ninth consecutive win by defeating St George Illawarra, Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens promised he would have ‘‘something to say’’ if the game didn’t attract a crowd of at least 50,000.
So when 45,631 turned up at ANZ Stadium on Friday night, the Kangaroos mentor had every right to feel aggrieved the match was shifted away from his preferred venue, the Sydney Football Stadium, under the NRL’s controversial ‘‘home region’’ finals format.
But after brushing aside last year’s premiers, Sheens was in no mood to complain. ‘‘I still feel we could have played at the Sydney Football Stadium, but we’re happy with that,’’ Sheens told The Sun-Herald. ‘‘We won here and I’m not going to start whingeing.’’
Given that the win was achieved after his side played only one quality half of football - and that several injured troops were likely to be available for their next encounter - that viewpoint is understandable.
The Tigers were missing strike centre Chris Lawrence - Matt Utai struggled to contain Mark Gasnier after shifting from the wing into the centres - but the young three-quarter declared himself a certain starter for the next match.
‘‘Awesome win by the boys tonight. Disappointed not to be out there with them but I will be back next week,’’ Lawrence tweeted after full-time.
The Tigers, along with minor premiers Melbourne, are now joint favourites with the bookies to take out the title. Form forward Chris Heighington spoke of the belief that came after nine straight wins. ‘‘It’s everywhere. Every player out there believes in their own ability and believes in their own role in the team to get the result on the night. We’re pretty happy with the ways things went but it could have been a lot better,’’ he said.
So, are this year’s Tigers a superior squad to the plucky young side that took out the 2005 premiership?
‘‘It was so long ago. So many different players,’’ Heighington said. ‘‘I honestly believe our nine, seven, six and one are playing so well that the other guys just have to do their job and we’re in the game.’’
Second-rower Liam Fulton was a deserving man of the match and fullback Tim Moltzen, playing against the club he will join next year, ran for 102 metres and was safe at the back.
‘‘We’re a reasonably young side and the boys could take a lot of confidence out of last year’s finals campaign, only getting done by one and then obviously St George Illawarra went on to win it,’’ Moltzen said. ‘‘I wasn’t a part of that, but I could definitely sense the boys took a lot of confidence out of that. We were a bit rusty during the year but [we have] sorted out all of our issues.’’
After a poor start to the year, the Tigers progressed through the season without any great expectations on them. But, given their winning streak and the ease with which they disposed of the Dragons in the second half, that will no longer be the case. However, the players are unfazed by the pressure.
‘‘People are saying that no one tipped us [on Friday]. We’re still floating under the radar, which isn’t too bad,’’ Moltzen said. ‘‘We don’t look at who is going to be the favourite or any of that stuff. We just focus on what we’ve got to do and do our job.’’