helmesy last edited by
Nice article, shows a different side of Tim.
I wonder if Fitzy’s signature is in that book?
Spartan117 last edited by
<big>Rugby League’s Most Famous Autograph Hunter</big>
Posted: November 14, 2011 by therealsteavis in Program stories
By STEVE MASCORD
IT wasn’t being asked for an autograph that surprised Malcolm Reilly. The former Great Britain star and coach has probably written thousands of them. It was who was doing the asking.
Sitting down for dinner at the Rugby League International Federation awards night at the Tower of London last week, Reilly was approached – book and pen in hand – by none other than Australia coach Tim Sheens.
Even though the job of green-and-golds mentor seems to carry with it an image of being competitive to the point of bloody-mindedness, there is another Tim Sheens. Accused of trying to influence a referee before the win over England at Wembley, Sheens regularly goes through the humble ritual of approaching the game’s biggest stars with his pen and autograph book.
It’s an act completely at odds with the ego and mindgames so often associated with modern rugby league.
“It’s an old antique book so I thought I’d put old antique players in it,” Sheens said this week ahead of Sunday’s Gillette Four Nations clash with Wales.
“I’ve got Ferris Ashton and Johnny Raper and Graeme Langlands and Norm Provan and Arthur Summons and all of that era – guys I played just after or with and against. I got Malcolm Reilly the other night.
“I got Harry Bath before he passed away, and (Keith) ‘Yappy’ Holman. I’ve got (Andrew) “Joey” Johns and Darren Lockyer. It started pretty much in 2008 when I went along (to a centenary function) with the book and I got Cliffy Lyons and a whole heap of players.
“Over here I got Billy Ashurst and Mike Stephenson who I played with in the sixties. I’ve put the Englishmen together. Last time when I was here, I got Ellery Hanley.”
Sheens – who collects programmes, memorabilia and even antique playing attire – says many stars past and present do a double-take when they are approached by the current coach of Australia for an autograph. “They are surprised, at times they are.
“It’s an interest. I love the history of the game. The good thing about their autographs is you can read them. Very few have I had to write underneath who they are. Today’s players, you can’t read it. Today, you’d be lucky to see a letter let alone a surname. It’s mainly because they sign a lot more – and they don’t sign cheques and things, they use computers.
“I’ve got a lot of programs from the sixties and seventies. You read some of the articles from the journos – it’s funny. Same problems then and now , just dressed up differently. The game has suffered the same problems, money problems, blah blah blah.
“I love to read the articles. You see in the programme, someone in third grade coming through like Peter Sterling.
“Collecting … I’ve got an old headgear, the old boots. There’s a shop up the road here (in Kensington) that’s got them with the old leather studs. I wanted to buy them and they’re only on display. A guy back home said he could find me some, it took him six months. They dated back to the 1900s. They arrived in a box, I took one look at them and sent him the money.
“I like to remind the boys of the history of the game. I played in unlimited tackle, four tackles and six tackles.
“I never look back and say it was better in our day. The game today is a great game. You’d imagine it will never get any better but it will – mainly because of the competitiveness of the coaches and the players.
“Sport is coach driven. Look at the intensity of the coach, who gets sacked if he loses. People who say a good team doesn’t need a coach – that’s garbage. Those people don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Asked if impressing Sheens to fan is any different to pleasing Sheens the coach, the Wests Tigers boss answers: “I’ve got all (the current players) on a football. But the autograph book I’ve got with me, I’ve got a some and I’m due to get some more…
“I’m not going to mention who. I’m not going to get dragged into that. There are some world’s best players in the current team but normally I like to get them when they’ve been there and done it rather than on their way through.”
With Robbie Farah having returned home due to a family illness, Billy Slater (collarbone) out of the tournament and captain Darren Lockyer (shoulder) taking a well-earned breather, today’s visit to Wrexham presents its own challenges – aside from the coaching getting his hands on this very publication before boarding the bus.
“We don’t have to win by a score. We just have to win. Obviously you want to build your game but it won’t necessarily be the starting side for the next week.”
Making his debut this afternoon is Daly Cherry-Evans, a Manly youngster who turned down the opportunity to represent England. Sheens says it would be hypocritical of him to complain about rival Steve McNamara’s aggressive recruiting, given than Australia also “raids” Pacific-originated talent.
“You don’t want to kill off your (domestic) competition but England need to win something,” says Sheens, again showing a side at odds with the win-at-all costs visage of Kangaroos coaches. “To get rugby league on the map again in this country, they need to go from rated three to rated one at some stage
“They need to get a trophy in their cabinet. It’s what’s helped New Zealand, because they’re beating Australia on a regular basis.”
Before we go, one question: has anyone turned down rugby league’s most unlikely autograph hunter?
Sheens names a former Australian swimming great, who he does not want me to identify in this story. She later relented, however.
“Since the premiership of ‘05,” he says. “I get as many autographs as I want.”
“Sheens names a former Australian swimming great, who he does not want me to identify in this story. She later relented, however.”
That would be Dawn Fraser i’m guessing.
Interesting that he has Darren Lockyer, if he got that one in their first Kangaroo camp together it would have been an amusing situation with a coach asking his captain for his autograph.
Good read though.
Spartan117 last edited by
Finally got a chance to read this…
What a great insight to the depth of character of this great man.
Successful and carying the respect of our games greatest yet humble.
I see this collection as part of some great museum type disply on the years to come.
Ps. I wonder why this article wasn’t carried in one of the main newspapers…