Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

NRL: Eye on the Tigers as search heats up

Michael Burgess shortlists the contenders as the Warriors' boss pushes his team to nail a new coach.

The Tigers and Sheens insist they're happy together but there are murmurs from fans.  Photo / Matt Blyth
The Tigers and Sheens insist they're happy together but there are murmurs from fans. Photo / Matt Blyth

Despite recent reports in Australian and New Zealand media, the Warriors seem no closer to securing a "supercoach" like Craig Bellamy or Tim Sheens.

Things can change quickly in professional sport but as things stand, it seems unlikely either of the men seen as the Auckland club's top targets - will be at Mt Smart next year.

The Herald on Sunday understands Sheens has already met Warriors representatives but there have not been ongoing discussions.

Sheens might be a logical choice but is contracted to Wests Tigers until the end of the 2014 season. He has given no indication of a desire to walk out on his contract.

Although factions within the joint venture club are unhappy with their underwhelming performances in 2012 and some of the board is rumoured to be displeased, the Tigers have backed their veteran coach.

"Tim's position is not under review," chief executive Stephen Humphreys told Australian media.

"We, as a club, have committed ourselves to Tim and we see him as the best man for the job moving forward. The fact that some people continue to look for opportunities to push an anti-Tim agenda is out of our control."

"It would be a great job to get but I have already got a job for two years and it is a pretty good club that I am at," said Sheens, when contacted by the Herald on Sunday.

"I'm not going to say it will never change - that is not the thing to say - but I am contracted to Wests Tigers for the next two years. That is probably the best thing for me to say.

"They are going through a process and they will sort out their coach. The fact that Craig [Bellamy] and I were mentioned as the type of coach that they would like probably indicates that they are looking for a senior type coach.

"Craig's there for a year and I'm here for two [though that] doesn't mean that either of us in our business can be assured of still being there - we've seen that before. All you do is let that sort of speculation brush off you and you move on with what you should be doing. At the moment, we are in the middle of our reviews and planning for next season."

As reported in yesterday's Herald, the Warriors have a shortlist believed to contain between eight to 10 names.

One source close to the club said there have been "a lot of meetings behind closed doors" over the last week and the process has been "shrouded in secrecy".

It is believed owner Owen Glenn has given CEO Wayne Scurrah a deadline by which the new man must be found because the staff's planning for 2013 is in limbo.

There is no doubt Sheens ticks a lot of the boxes for the Warriors. As well as his experience (no one has coached more games in the NRL) and success (four premierships), his style is suited to the Mt Smart club.

His teams tend to play with plenty of flair, as well as having good structure and discipline, an ideal blend for Warriors players and fans and one that appeals more than the super-structured approach of a Bellamy or Stephen Kearney.

He also has a long history with Polynesian and Maori players, from the days when Ruben Wiki, Quentin Pongia, John Lomax and Sean Hoppe were at the Raiders in the 1990s. He appeals as a mentor to young players (and staff) and his status as Kangaroos coach would help attract Australian players to the club.

He would be aware of the need to promote the game here and after nine years in Canberra, you can assume our colder climate wouldn't hold many fears for the 62-year-old.

However, any exit from the Tigers would need to be mutually agreed and there is no indication that is on the cards.

"Tim is not going anywhere," says Balmain legend Ben Elias, a former board member who was instrumental in getting Sheens to the club back in 2003 and retains close links to the club . "They are 100 per cent committed to Tim and there is no way he is leaving the Tigers. We will be loyal to him and he will repay us in spades. Anyway, we don't want you Kiwis taking our best coaches."

The Tigers also need to be pragmatic, as they could not afford to pay out his contract (the figure would be in excess of $1.25 million) if they decided to dismiss him. "If he decided to go, then that would be his call," says Elias. "He has done a lot for the club and would leave with our blessings. We would back him in any decision."

Bellamy seems happy in his Melbourne stronghold and has given no signs that he would want to cross the Tasman.

There are practical reasons - his family and school-age children live in Brisbane and the regular trips home would be more complicated from Auckland than Victoria.

He still wants to win titles (having had his two grand final wins scrubbed out by the salary cap scandal) and may see Melbourne as the best place to achieve that in the short-term.

He also knows that any hopes of coaching Australia may lessen if he is based in Auckland.

Money does talk but he will still command a sizeable wage for any new contract deal at the Storm, which would lessen the appeal of Glenn and Eric Watson's millions.

And we must also be aware that the Storm is not just another club; it is owned by News Ltd and the NRL, and a crucial element in the war with the AFL. It must be seen to be successful at all costs, which makes prising away their star coach even more of a task.

"He's not considering his 'next coaching deal' at present as he still has 14 months remaining on his Storm contract," Bellamy's agent John Fordham told the Herald on Sunday. "He's 100 per cent occupied coaching the Melbourne Storm and he won't be considering his future until much further down the track."

Fordham, understood to have met Warriors representatives in Sydney, added "few, if any clubs" have made inquiries about Bellamy as "they realise he is contracted to Melbourne until the end of 2013".

- Herald on Sunday

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