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5 days ago
There have been some rumblings of discontent from some Wests Tigers fans recently, most of which have revolved around Coach Tim Sheens.
Coming off four straight losses, some of the Tigers faithful were of the opinion Sheens must go. But hold on; let's just think about this logically for a minute.
Back in 1999 when the Balmain Tigers and Western Suburbs Magpies decided to merge, both were struggling teams, finishing 18th and 20th respectively out of the then 20 team NRL competition.
The team went through some rough times early on and in 2002, at their lowest point, sacked Coach Terry Lamb and finished third last (which would have been second last had it not been for the Bulldogs salary cap saga).
Three-time premiership winning coach Sheens was hired by the Wests Tigers board for the 2003 season. Sheens said the club was in a re-building phase and this will be a long, slow process likely to take the best part of five years.
Just three years later and the Tigers are competing with the top teams and are looking very strong for the future. And here is why.
Sheens has changed the whole image of the club - from bad boys with poor media coverage, to an exciting team playing attractive football.
He has the cream of the young talent in the NRL. Benji Marshall, Liam Fulton, Bryce Gibbs, Bronson Harrison, Robbie Farah, Dean Collis and Dene Halatau are all superstars in the making, and all are signed, or just about to re-sign, contracts with the club.
These young players obviously mean the Tigers have a young squad. The average age of the team is 23, compared to the Raiders 26. This is a very positive sign for the future.
Sheens, the most experienced coach in the NRL, is starting to get the best out of his young side. This is a huge achievement following the mass retirements from last years' side, where he lost his captain Darren Senter, and veterans Scott Sattler, Michael Buettner, Jason Moodie and Robbie Mears. Combined they have played more than 1000 first grade games. If you take this talent and experience out of a side, they will initially struggle - which is what the Tigers did earlier in the year.
The Tigers are in line for a very fruitful future, and Tim Sheens is the single reason behind this. He took a badly bruised football team and turned them into serious top eight contenders and possible premiership contenders in the coming years.
His knowledge and experience have been a blessing for the Tigers, and he should remain as their coach for as long as he likes.