Home Sports Toothless Tigers needs more than Mr Sheens’ polish to fix lacklustre defence

Toothless Tigers needs more than Mr Sheens’ polish to fix lacklustre defence


The first time the Wests Tigers brought Tim Sheens in to rescue them, they won a premiership within three years in one of the most amazing turnarounds in premiership history.

This time around, if he can just get them back into the finals in that timeframe it will be an extraordinary achievement.

Sheens took the coaching reins of the Wests Tigers in 2003 and after a middling start in which they finished 13th and ninth in his first two years in charge, they surged to the premiership in one of the most remarkable late-season runs of all time.

After an acrimonious split when he was sacked nearly a decade ago, he was last June appointed to become their head of football performance but travel restrictions meant he did not get his feet under his desk in Concord until November.

Sheens has backed coach Michael Maguire, who survived a dreaded end-of-season review last season, to turn the team’s fortunes around.

And boy is there a lot to fix. Since Maguire took over from Ivan Cleary when he left for the Panthers in controversial fashion three years ago, the Tigers’ results have gone backwards from their sixth ever ninth-placed finish in 2019, to 11th the following year and 13th last season.

Their roster was devoid of top-line talent with Joe Ofahengaue, who was used off the bench in Origin I, their only player chosen in the series.

They were behind the eight-ball from the get-go with just one win coming in the first nine rounds and apart from a win over an Origin-depleted Panthers team, they upset Newcastle twice and their other five victories were over fellow also-rans St George Illawarra, North Queensland (twice), the Bulldogs and Brisbane.

When they were flogged 38-0 in the final round by wooden spooners Canterbury, Maguire’s tenure looked as good as over but eventually, the board announced he would return for 2022.

However, with five-eighth Adam Doueihi, centre Tommy Talau and second-rower Shawn Blore sidelined long term with knee injuries, Maguire’s hopes of a quick turnaround look forlorn.

The Tigers’ problems stem from their toothless defence. Conceding 29.8 points per game is usually enough to easily be the worst in the NRL but last year they were fortunate the Cowboys were even more inept at 31.2.

North Queensland also saved from being the worst for tries conceded (5.3) and line breaks allowed (6.5).

No team wants to be known as soft but it’s hard to describe the Tigers’ defensive effort in any other way – they let in more tries (22) from six-again calls than any other team.

That’s the kind of tackling stat which is impossible to defend.

Curiously, they ranked equal-fourth for most missed tackles at 32.8 but were actually the top-ranked team for preventing offloads at 8.6.

With Doueihi, Talau and Blore sidelined, they are already depleted before a ball is kicked in 2022.

Jackson Hastings will bring tenacity at five-eighth, English import Oliver Gildart should provide a boost in the centres while former Titans utility Tyrone Peachey can add panache to their back row.

Apart from that, the team is much the same as last year so Maguire, with a dash of Mr Sheens’ polish, has to get more out of his go-to guys in halfback Luke Brooks and second-rower Luciano Leilua while continuing to develop young prospects like prop Stefano Utoikamanu and fullback Daine Laurie for the Tigers to have any chance of again finishing among the also-rans.


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