<big>Sheens unfazed by hyped-up Tigers tag</big>
By Ian McCullough AAP Tue, Feb 21, 2012 - 4:53 PM
Entering his 10th season at Wests Tigers, Tim Sheens is unfazed that his side is being rated the NRL title favourites.
The veteran coach brushes it off but is obviously well aware the mantle can bring a pressure of expectation as fans look to the joint venture team to add to their 2005 premiership.
“There’s not a lot we can do about being listed as one of the favourites,” Sheens told AAP.
"In previous years we’ve been written off and now people are talking us up.
“We’ll just do our thing and focus on the things we can control.”
The arrival of New Zealand enforcer Adam Blair from Melbourne gives an already-strong squad a further boost and may well be the final part of the jigsaw for a side that’s been a top-four finisher for the last two years, only to bomb out in the finals.
The signing of Blair saw the Tigers offload props Andrew Fifita and Bryce Gibbs to Cronulla, helping to free up the cash to fund his $500,000-a-year contract.
However, Sheens denied the decision to ship out the pair was not entirely down to Blair.
“It’s wrong to say because Adam was coming we had to move on those players,” he said. "The main factor was to upgrade the contracts of two of our young props Aaron Woods and Matt Groat.
“We had to make a call on who we wanted to keep and that’s the way we went.”
The presence of New Zealand superstar Benji Marshall at five-eighth, skipper Robbie Farah out of dummy-half and Chris Lawrence at centre gives the Tigers formidable options in attack.
And this will be bolstered by Tim Moltzen at halfback.
Moltzen finished last season strongly at fullback after struggling to find his best form following knee reconstruction surgery.
But with Robert Lui’s off-field problems forcing him to move to North Queensland, the versatile Moltzen will play alongside Marshall in 2012.
Sheens admits the 23-year-old, who pulled out of a move to St George Illawarra to stay at the Tigers, was initially reluctant to make the switch to the halves, even though he and Marshall possess the best winning percentage of any halves combination in the NRL, tasting defeat just twice in 11 games.
“He took a bit of time last year to get back to his best, which is not unusual after a serious injury,and struggled to get into the side,” Sheens said.
"That was probably part of his thinking when he decided he wanted to go to St George.
“It’s not my place to talk about why he decided to leave or stay, but I’m pleased to have him here.”
The only question mark hanging over the Tigers squad is the lack of a recognised experienced fullback.
However, Sheens believes he has a wide range of players who can fill the role with young gun James Tedesco, who acquitted himself well during the trials looking in the box seat to start the season.
However, Sheens is cautious about throwing the 19-year-old in at the deep end, and has also signed former Parramatta utilities Joel Reddy and Tom Humble who can play the role.
“Joel can play centre, wing and fullback, has experience and great defensive ability,” he said.
"Tedesco is a kid who can play, but the gap between reserve grade and first grade is huge and he’s still learning the game.
“Tom Humble can play in the halves and at one and we also have Mitch Brown and Beau Ryan who’ve also played there in the past, so we’re in good shape.”