Sheens still searches for Tigers NRL spine
Just 10 rounds into the NRL campaign, the Wests Tigers admit they are still yet to find the right winning formula with coach Tim Sheens tinkering with his ‘spine’ for the seventh time this year.
The Tigers have won their past three matches, seemingly distancing themselves from a five-game losing streak earlier this year, but Sheens acknowledges their form is still patchy – forcing him into yet another shake-up of his spine.
The loss of captain and hooker Robbie Farah to NSW this week has resulted in yet another 1-6-7-9 combination lining up when the Tigers take on the Warriors at Leichhardt Oval on Friday night.
Regular five-eighth Benji Marshall remains at halfback while Test centre Chris Lawrence fills the No.6 jersey, Tim Moltzen stays at fullback and Tom Humble starts at hooker for the first time in his NRL career.
Stability in the spine is imperative in rugby league, but Sheens insists the latest shuffle is not a sign of desperation, saying he’s been a long admirer of Lawrence at second receiver.
“He’s trained very well there. I’ve got a high opinion of him in that position,” Sheens said on Thursday.
“He’ll run the ball – he’s got a good strong defensive game.
“He’ll get more involvement, more touches which I think is important for us.
“Particularly with Robbie out, our key players touching the ball more and getting closer to the ball is important.”
Marshall, whose move to No.7 will see him line up directly with Warriors’ wunderkind Shaun Johnson, also accepted the Tigers’ recent form wasn’t up to scratch, despite wins over Parramatta, Gold Coast and Penrith.
But he said the constant change, which has included Liam Fulton filling in at hooker on occasions and will have him playing with a makeshift hooker and five-eighth this week, was not a problem.
“And I’m probably not a traditional number seven, so we’re stuffed in all areas, aren’t we?,” Marshall joked.
“No, it’s not tough. It’s my job in the team and I think when you add a bit of pressure on it, when you have guys like Robbie out, you’ve just got to step up.
“I’m really going to have to step up my game as well as everyone in the team to cover those losses that we have with Robbie.
“I’m confident in Chris Lawrence that he can do a great job at five-eighth for us.”
Sheens said the team was better placed to cover for Farah than they were earlier in the year when he served a two-game suspension for a dangerous throw – resulting in two losses for the Tigers.
“We’ve worked hard as a unit and the boys who have had that bit of experience playing hooker, Tommy Humble in particular … has grown in that position,” Sheens said.
“So we’re a lot more comfortable with it at this stage of the season.”
Marshall admits it is scary to think about the potential of Johnson, who has drawn comparisons with the Kiwi captain due to his line-breaking ability and carefree style.
“It’s pretty scary to think what he can still achieve in the future compared to what he’s achieved in 11 months,” Marshall said.© AAP 2013
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