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Sheens poised to hand ageing Anasta challenge and a half

TIM SHEENS is set to make one of the biggest gambles of his coaching career next season by handing Braith Anasta the No.7 jersey.

The Herald has been told Sheens plans to shift Benji Marshall back to his customary five-eighth role, with Roosters recruit Anasta to partner him at halfback.

The Wests Tigers have been the biggest flops of this season, failing to make the play-offs after being premiership favourites at the start of the year. One of the biggest problems was the club's inability to settle on a ''spine'' - the halfback, five-eighth, fullback and hooker - and the halves in particular. All up, the Tigers used nine halves combinations, rotating Marshall, Tim Moltzen, Jacob Miller, Tom Humble, Chris Lawrence, Blake Ayshford, Curtis Sironen, Robbie Farah and Liam Fulton through the six and seven spots.

Anasta has played 251 games in an illustrious career for Canterbury and the Sydney Roosters. However, he has started in the No.7 jersey only once, for the Roosters against Manly in round 17 in 2007.

The former NSW and Australian representative has played 214 games at pivot, one at fullback, five from the bench and the rest at either lock or in the second row. But at the age of 30, he will be asked to take on a new position at a new club.

''That's where Sheens wants to play him; it means Benji goes back to five-eighth,'' a source said.

The experiment, likely to be road-tested in next year's trial matches, will have ramifications for many at the club. Sironen showed promise in his five matches alongside Marshall in the halves, but injury prematurely ended the year of the schoolboys superstar. The latest development could push him into the back row.

Sheens, the Kangaroos coach, is one of league's great innovators, and has held the clipboard for more games than anyone else in NRL history. But the four-time premiership-winning coach's sides have made the finals only three times in the past 15 years. The lean trot has put Sheens under pressure to keep his job, and finding a long-term replacement for Robert Lui remains one of the big challenges.

''If they decide to move me on, then they'll move me on,'' Sheens said after a loss to Melbourne on Saturday night officially killed off the Tigers' play-off hopes. ''That is something out of my control.''