The Wests Tigers are set to drop one of the biggest coaching bombshells in the history of the game, finalising a five-year deal with Benji Marshall which will see him take over as coach in 2025.
Two decades after the club’s first and only premiership, Marshall and Tim Sheens are set to reunite as part of a 2005 dream team, which is also expected to include former Tigers captain Robbie Farah.
Sources familiar with negotiations told the Herald that Marshall has today agreed to the mammoth deal and will spend the next two seasons as Tim Sheens’ understudy before taking over the reins as head coach.
The Tigers will also announce Sheens as head coach for the 2023 and 2024 seasons, deciding to hand the premierhip-winner control of the team after Panthers assistant coach Cameron Ciraldo opted not to take a five-year deal.
The Herald has also been told that Marshall has played a key role in allaying the concerns of star recruit Isaiah Papali’i, who has been having second thoughts about joining the Wests Tigers on a three-year deal from next year.
Marshall, one of the most revered figures in New Zealand rugby league, spoke to Papali’i about the direction the club is heading with him steering the ship.
Back together … Benji Marshall and Tim Sheens at Tigers training in 2012Credit:NRL Imagery
Marshall retired from the NRL after last year’s grand final loss with the South Sydney Rabbitohs.
While he has no NRL coaching experience, he has been working with the club’s younger players in a consultancy role throughout the year.
Marshall had little to do with the NRL team and was hesitant to get involved given how the relationship between him and former coach Michael Maguire had deteriorated during the past two years.
The Tigers were considering going through an interview process with potential candidates like John Morris and Shane Flanagan, however there is a view internally that the club would benefit from Sheens’ experience as they attempt to overhaul the roster in the next couple of years.
Sheens is expected to do the heavy lifting during the next two years, working with Marshall to compile a roster that will be challenging for a premiership throughout the legendary No.6’s tenure as coach.
Sheens is also seen as the man who can help nurture the impressive crop of youngsters in the club’s system and develop them from promising teenagers into NRL stars.
Interim coach Brett Kimmorley hasn’t been afraid to debut some of those players. Rookie Fonua Pole was arguably the Tigers’ best player against Parramatta last week in just his second game.
The Tigers also debuted young gun Justin Matamua, who showed why he is so highly regarded at the club despite spending a stint in the sin bin in the loss to the Eels at Leichhardt Oval last week.
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