Taylor, Potter, Sheens: Why coaching Wests Tigers is a poisoned chalice

BY CURTIS WOODWARD

After being sacked as Wests Tigers coach in 2012, Tim Sheens said, “Put it this way: players get rid of coaches.”

This was Sheens speaking to Fox Sports after 250 games in charge of the club he led to an unlikely premiership seven years earlier.

“It’s generally senior players too,” he added.

“The 19-year-old; if you tell him it’s black and it’s white, he’ll still believe it’s black. The older player who starts to struggle with their form, and for whatever reason isn’t happy – or his form isn’t happy – looks externally rather than internally. That causes generally the demise of coaches.”

Sheens would have been well within his rights at the time to wonder where the support of his star players Benji Marshall and Robbie Farah was. Neither went to bat for him despite Sheens taking many bullets for his players.

A week before Sheens’ dismissal, Marshall appeared on the Footy Show. Did he back his “father figure”? Nope.

“His coaching ability no doubt is up there with the best in the world. And you don’t replace a coach – unless there’s someone better,” Benji said.

Player power.

Sheens was dead in the water.

Then came Michael Potter. A Dally M winner from St. Gregory’s College at Campbelltown. An accomplished coach who cut his teeth in the English Super League, Potter walked into a battlefield with landmines as far as the eye could see. Potter knew he had to take the power back from the players.

He benched Marshall and didn’t bat an eyelid when Benji said he wanted out of the club to try Super Rugby. But Potter was always punching in the dark. He’d lose the war to other influences including Farah.

Potter sacked.

Player power.

Then there’s Jason Taylor who had his contract ripped up on Monday. He is now without a job.

 

 

Wests Tigers started the year with a big win over South Sydney but have been thrashed in consecutive weeks by Penrith and Canberra. As a team, they are nowhere near where they should be in their development.

Some of that is Taylor’s fault, some of it is on the players. If they want a coach gone, they simply don’t show up. They will go through the motions, give the coach a thumbs up and then snicker behind his back.

You’d be flat out finding anyone that will tell you Luke Brooks and Mitchell Moses are putting in. An amazing thing to think considering how much money they’re asking for on the open market.

But it’s always the coach that goes first.

Player power.

“On behalf of everyone at Wests Tigers I’d like to thank Jason for his commitment and contribution to the Club during his time as Head Coach,” Chairwoman Marina Go said in a statement.

“Jason has overseen significant change within the Club over the past two seasons and we thank him for his efforts.

“Our position has always been to make sure that the Head Coach’s contract is tied to performance and that hasn’t changed.

“We are committed to building a side that will be in a position to win NRL Premierships and believe that this decision is the correct one for the future of the Club.

“This is a challenging time for the Club and Jason and we ask that we are given time to work through this process with Jason.”

Basically, thanks for punting Farah but we’ll find someone else the players like a little more.

And that’s what Taylor will be remembered for. He may not have gotten the results the club was after on-field but he made some tough decisions and handed the team to the new generation.

Coaches are hired to be fired but they all leave a legacy at Wests Tigers.

Sheens won them a premiership while Potter and Taylor cleared the decks as best they could only to be shown the door anyway.

Goodluck to the next jedi that takes on the top job. The player power is strong in this one.

@woodward_curtis

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