Too dear to lose … Tigers coach Tim Sheens. Photo: Jonathan Ng
SALARY cap problems and a shortage of money to pay out coach Tim Sheens have left Wests Tigers' preparations for 2013 in limbo.
A review of the club's 2012 performance is expected to recommend that the Tigers part ways with Sheens but the joint venture cannot afford to pay him $900,000 for the remaining two years of his contract.
In addition, the Tigers would have to find an estimated $250,000 for a new coach next season if they were to appoint a replacement untried at NRL level such as Matt Parish, Steve Georgallis or Peter Gentle.
An emergency board meeting set down for last night to discuss Sheens's future was cancelled but directors have been in regular contact since they decided last Thursday night to conduct a review of the Tigers' miserable season.
Since missing out on a place in the finals by two points, long-standing relationships at the Tigers have begun to unravel, and Sheens is believed to have lost the support of star players Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah.
While it has been suggested that relations between Sheens - the Australian coach - and Farah have not been the same since last year's Four Nations in England, Marshall had been a vocal supporter.
Just two weeks ago, the star playmaker wrote a column in The Sun-Herald declaring that he thought Sheens was still the best coach in the game and had the respect of the players ''in spades''.
However, the shock departures of the popular Beau Ryan and Chris Heighington to Cronulla and news that centre Blake Ayshford had also been told he was free to find another club appears to have changed that.
The Herald revealed last week that Farah would consider a move to Parramatta when his contract expires next season, while Marshall wrote in his column last Sunday that he was struggling to come to terms with the decision to allow Ryan and Heighington to leave.
Heighington was under contract but was seeking a two-year extension, and when the Sharks offered him a three-year deal, the Tigers agreed to release him.
After being offered a release a year earlier, the Central Coast-born England second-rower clearly didn't fit into Sheens's long-term plans.
Ryan had agreed to terms on a new three-year deal with the Tigers 10 weeks earlier. However, no deal was signed, and the Herald was told Ryan became frustrated at delays as he was trying to get a home loan.
When he discovered Heighington was going to Cronulla he decided to join him.
Tigers management has been criticised for not formalising the deal with Ryan but the Herald has been told that the club was not in a position to lodge a contract until it had resolved salary cap issues.
Under NRL rules, all contracts must be lodged with salary cap auditor Ian Schubert within two weeks of being signed, and he has reportedly refused to register a new deal for Manly's Brett Stewart for similar reasons.
Sea Eagles prop Brent Kite has been linked with the Tigers but the Herald understands club management disagrees with Sheens over signing another player over 30 after recruiting Braith Anasta from the Roosters.
The Tigers boast two of the best young props in the game in Aaron Woods and Matt Groat. The club won this year's under-18 SG Ball competition and has qualified for the grand finals of the under-20 Toyota Cup and NSW Cup, the latter through feeder team Balmain-Ryde.