The Wests Tigers are making plans to accelerate Benji Marshall‘s transition to the head coaching role, with the aim of having him assume responsibilities by the start of the 2024 pre-season. While Tim Sheens will retain the title of head coach, the club has decided to fast-track Marshall’s development and have him take over when the team resumes training in November. Originally, Marshall was set to have a two-year apprenticeship under Sheens, but after just nine months, the club has decided he is ready for a more prominent role.
The recent 74-0 defeat at the hands of the North Queensland Cowboys has once again raised questions about the Tigers‘ investment in the Sheens-Marshall combination. However, the club has no intention of parting ways with Sheens, but rather believes that Marshall is prepared to step up and take control of the team. Sources with inside knowledge of the situation have confirmed that Marshall now has a greater influence on team decisions compared to the beginning of the year, but Sheens remains the senior figure with the final say, particularly in team selection.
Over the off-season, the roles of Marshall and Sheens are expected to change. Marshall will become the primary decision-maker, while Sheens takes on a more supervisory role, overseeing the development of his protege. The club still wants Sheens to shield Marshall from criticism for the next year, which is why he will continue to be the head coach and face the media.
Marshall has impressed both the players and the organization with his demeanor and tactical knowledge since joining the coaching staff. Many believe he is ready to take on the head coaching duties. Under the previous coach, Michael Maguire, there were criticisms from the playing group regarding communication issues and a lack of clear direction. The club believes that having a single figurehead on the coaching staff will address these concerns.
In an interview earlier this year, Sheens had already anticipated the potential for Marshall to take on a greater role within the club. He expressed confidence in Marshall’s abilities and predicted that in 12 months’ time, he would be ready to fully assume the coaching responsibilities. Sheens acknowledged that he is currently an interim coach and expressed his satisfaction with allowing Marshall and fellow assistant coach Robbie Farah to take charge, as it is a valuable teaching experience for them.
When contacted for comment, Tigers officials declined to provide any information. However, fans have been critical of the management and directors who chose to pair an untested rookie coach with an aging veteran mentor as a solution to the club’s struggles. Despite the devastating loss to the Cowboys, the Tigers are focusing on areas of improvement. Their average points conceded per game has decreased compared to last year under Maguire and Kimmorley, but they still sit at the bottom of the ladder.
The Tigers have lost five games this season by a converted try or less, providing some comfort to those within the club. Additionally, the development of young talents such as Jahream Bula and Fonua Pole offers hope for the future. However, there is a passionate fan base that is frustrated with the team’s consistent lack of success, as the Tigers are set to miss the finals for the twelfth consecutive year.
Marshall’s first task as he assumes a more influential role will be to find a replacement for Luke Brooks, who is expected to leave the club. The Tigers are hoping to sign Manly’s teenage sensation, Latu Fainu, to take over Marshall’s iconic No.6 jersey. The club has also shown interest in players such as Brayden Trindall and Jack Cogger to fill the halfback position. This responsibility now lies with new recruitment boss Scott Fulton to work on.
Regardless of job titles, it is clear that Marshall’s voice will carry the most weight in the near future as the Tigers seek to turn their fortunes around.