Wests Tigers are ready to step up contract talks with coach Tim Sheens in the coming weeks as they attempt to finalise an agreement which will mean the game’s most experienced coach spends a decade at the club.
Tigers chief executive Steve Humphreys confirmed he had held initial talks with Sheens and wanted to sit down again with the 60-year-old within a fortnight.
Sheens, who led the club to within one win of a grand final this year, is one of several coaches who will come off contract at the end of next season. Others include seven-time premiership winner Wayne Bennett, South Sydney’s John Lang and Penrith’s Matthew Elliott.
“Tim and I have already had some dialogue,” Humphreys said.
“It was always our plan to take that dialogue to the next (level) once the Four Nations was complete and he had a short break.
“We’re still on that timing. We will get together over the next fortnight. I think there is a desire from both of us to bring it to some result so we get some clarity on what’s happening beyond 2011.”
Sheens, who led the Tigers to the 2005 premiership, was under pressure entering last season but did more than enough to warrant an extension. His side was beaten by eventual premiers St George Illawarra in the preliminary final.
He will enter his ninth year as coach of the Tigers in 2011, meaning even a one-year extension would result in him notching a decade at the club. For some players, including Tigers captain Robbie Farah and superstar five-eighth Benji Marshall, Sheens is the only coach they have known.
The four-time premiership winner has coached more than 600 games in first grade, including grand final wins with Canberra and the Tigers. In recent years he has been consistently linked with South Sydney, whose owner Russell Crowe confirmed on American television this week that the club was on the look-out for a coach to replace Lang in 2012.
Seven-time premiership winner Wayne Bennett has been widely touted as that man, although Rabbitohs chief executive Shane Richardson insists no talks had taken place. Regardless, rumours persist that if a deal is not done, it is only a matter of time before a switch to Redfern is finalised.
Bennett is currently on holidays but will return early next month and is expected to inform Dragons officials of his plans during the off-season. He has also been linked with a return to Brisbane Broncos or a switch to North Queensland Cowboys.
Outside of Bennett, Sheens is easily the most successful coach coming on to the open market. Asked whether he was aware of rumours linking Sheens with Souths, Humphreys said: “That’s not a motivating factor for us.
“It’s more about what’s right for the Tigers and what’s right for Tim. Obviously I have heard the rumours. There’s lots of rumours in rugby league.
“That one has been around for quite a while.”