3 days ago
The Wests Tigers announced a new major sponsor yesterday but they will have an anxious wait for the signatures they seek the most, those of their coach and playmakers.
The 2005 premiers announced Malaysian car-maker Proton as their new naming rights sponsor for the next two NRL seasons, but the future of coach Tim Sheens and in-demand halves Benji Marshall and Scott Prince are in doubt beyond next year.
Marshall said he was likely to extend his stay with the Tigers beyond 2006 if Sheens did likewise.
"If Tim stays it will go a long way to making my mind up," Marshall said.
"It would be good if Tim and Scott stays as well.
"It's a big decision, definitely I'll need a bit of time to think about it.
"All my best mates are here and I'd like to stay.
"I'll sit down with my manager and talk about it."
However, Sheens said he was unlikely to make a decision on his long-term future until the middle of next year, which may sway Prince and Marshall to hold off on re-signing until their mentor's future is known.
"I've got a year to go on my contract," Sheens said today.
"It surprises me, Benji, Princey and me all have a year to go on contract.
"It's not even Christmas time this year, why the hell is there this pressure on everybody to say `why aren't they signed?'
"It amazes me. It won't be until the middle of next year before anybody sits down to talk about my future and I'm sure the players are the same.
"If the club wants to sit down earlier they will, but it's not an issue for me, I'm not worried about it.
"I've got better things to worry about than extending a deal when I've already got a year on my contract."
Tigers CEO Steve Noyce said he was keen to have Sheens, Marshall and Prince signed long term, but said there was no pressure to fast-track negotiations.
"I have been quoted many times saying Tim is the best signing we've ever made," Noyce said.
"Prince and Marshall enjoy the latitude that Tim gives them.
"And we as a team have worked hard to put a team on the paddock the fans and the club can be proud of.
"Tim's a very key part of that and with those credentials you'd like to think there was an opportunity to go forward.
"We've obviously had other priorities over the last few months but now that's out of the way we'll talk about other issues.
"We'll manage that, that's something external people put more time and demands on than we do."
Fullback Brett Hodgson, who extended his contract with the Tigers till the 2008 season, feared the club may face another "building phase" if it couldn't re-sign the trio.
"No doubt, we need them to stick together, otherwise it's going to be another building phase for the club," he said.
"Hopefully they'll sign long term and we can remain as we are for many years to come."
After struggling to attract sponsors throughout its joint-venture history, Proton has come on board for two years, with an option for a third year.
"Next year is our seventh year and it will be our seventh major sponsor, it's certainly not a record I'm proud of," CEO Steve Noyce said.
"We've changed that today and it's onward and upward for the club.
"We are on a bit of a roll at the moment and this helps us commercially and with our financial stability ... if we do that players will come to the club."
Sheens said success at the back office was paramount to the Tigers' performances on the field.
"Money is short," Sheens said.
"That's been the case for us for the first few years, particularly after we blew the initial joint-venture dollars we were given by the NRL.
"We have subsequently pulled back and we are a lot smarter than that now."