Confused ... Benji Marshall during training with coach Tim Sheens. Photo: Anthony Johnson
TIM SHEENS is safe for now. Whether the Wests Tigers coach remains depends on the result of a review into the club's failings - as well as the significance of player rumblings.
The Wests Tigers board met for more than three hours last night to discuss the future of the coach. As they did so, player dissatisfaction was becoming clearer; Benji Marshall admitted to the Herald that he was disillusioned and confused by the player turnover. ''I don't really like what's going on,'' he said.
How much emphasis the board puts on the players' sentiments remains to be seen, but chief executive Stephen Humphreys confirmed that Sheens's future would form a part of the club's review.
''We're reviewing all parts of the business, including the football department,'' he said. ''Our priority is to get it [the review] right, and we'll address that issue in the coming days. But at this point in time, we don't want to feel pressured to do something quickly. We want to do the right thing … we're making good progress but we're not quite there yet.
''Tim loves the game, loves our club and would love to stay involved, but we need to review all aspects of the business, including that aspect. We're getting close to a conclusion on that.''
Humphreys added that there was an ''expectation of success in all areas of our business''. ''Nobody in any part of our club is satisfied with our 2012 performances, and we're all committed to doing everything we can to ensure improved results,'' he said. ''[But] we will complete our review process and agree our future plan in a prompt but orderly manner, to ensure the best possible outcomes for our club.''
Sheens's position is under threat following a disappointing season, which was followed by unrest over the decision to allow Chris Heighington and Beau Ryan to depart for Cronulla.
His position as coach was relatively secure on Sunday. As the week dragged on, though, it became far more tenuous. On Monday morning, players became aware that two of their most popular teammates were leaving. By the afternoon, many of them had assembled at the Oaks Hotel at Neutral Bay – including Ryan and Heighington – in defiant support of them. By evening, many had turned against the coach.
Last year, props Bryce Gibbs and Andrew Fifita left for Cronulla, and when the exodus of players continued this week (Blake Ayshford has also been urged to look elsewhere), following a season in which the Tigers missed the finals, the players’ unhappiness returned and multiplied. They still trained on Tuesday, under Sheens, but the sentiment among some had become clear to officials and board members.
Sheens signed a three-year deal last year, which was expected to take him through until the end of 2014.
Terminating that deal would require a payout. Tigers officials had previously concluded that, while disappointed that the pre-season premiership favourites had missed the finals, there was no better man to replace Sheens.
But that was before this week, when the players started to grumble.
While Marshall would not speculate about the future of Sheens, who brought him into first grade, he acknowledged that the impending departures of Heighington and Ryan were at odds with him. ‘‘I just don’t think it’s right,’’ the halfback said.
‘‘Culture’s an important thing for me. Culture’s about the people involved at the club. That’s why this confuses me.‘
‘‘Heighno’ holds the record for the most games at the club. To be treated the way that he has ... from a culture point of view, we like to look after our own, and Heighno is one of our own. The fans love him, and the players love him. Heighno is one of those players that everyone in the team plays for.
‘‘Beau has been one of our best players this year, and what he does for us away from the game is unbelievable. I don’t really understand why this is happening. It confuses me,’’ Marshall said.