Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall ‘aggressively implementing’ new recruitment strategy for the Wests Tigers

Wests Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis has thrown his support behind Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall’s recruitment policy as Jackson Hastings’ rumoured switch to Newcastle draws closer.

“I’ve heard the reasonings and explanations proffered by Tim and Benji as to their recruitment decisions and they have our full support,” Hagipantelis told SEN.

The Tigers finished a miserable season in last place on the ladder and picked up the first wooden spoon in the club’s history, which provoked the board halfway through the campaign to get rid of Michael Maguire and search for a new direction forward.

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They eventually settled upon the return of Sheens a decade after the veteran coach had originally left the Tigers, pairing him alongside Marshall to form a long-term coaching succession plan.

The duo has now been entrusted to lead the way in regard to recruitment and retention decisions with the roster undergoing significant changes already.

“We have a list management committee at the moment and Tim Sheens and Benji Marshall sit on that committee,” Hagipantelis said.

“These gentlemen have devised what I would consider to be a very forensic and strategic recruitment and retention program.

“They are in the market at the moment, and they are vigorously and aggressively implementing that program.

“We came last this year and took home the wooden spoon for the first time in our history- that was unacceptable. We cannot allow it to happen again.

“I’m very confident and comfortable where we sit and where we’re heading. There has been a lot of movement in our roster and there will continue to be.”

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Api Koroisau, Isaiah Papali’i and Charlie Staines headline the players incoming at Concord with the potential addition of former Australian and NSW front-rower David Klemmer also on the horizon.

However, they have lost a number of backrowers including Luke Garner, Kelma Tuilagi and Tyrone Peachey and look likely to release Hastings despite the halfback being a shining light for the Tigers this year.

“Difficult decisions have been made and will continue to be made,” Hagipantelis said.

“They have identified the type of player or players that they think we need as a club to move forwards and they are actively recruiting them.”

The Tigers chairman hinted he may not always agree with the plans from Sheens and Marshall but was willing to support their vision due to the respect they had earned within the game through their vast experience. 

“I have complete confidence and faith in their judgement on these matters,” he said.

“One of those men has coached over 700 NRL games, the other has played well over 300. So, it’s not for me to question their judgement.”

Uncertainty remains around their spine with Luke Brooks, Adam Doueihi and Daine Laurie all coming off contract in 2023.

Yet the reported release of Hastings points to the club’s preference at locking in Brooks and Doueihi as their desired halves pairing for the long-term.  

Meanwhile, the Tigers announced the re-signing of promising forward Fonua Pole on an extended deal this week, underlining the club’s commitment to developing a young roster for the future.

It is one Sheens is reportedly growing increasingly confident about behind-the-scenes, as the club will attempt to make finals for the first time in 12 years next season. 

“One thing Tim said to me the other night was, ‘You will not recognise the Wests Tigers in 2023 compared to 22,’ so I’m very much looking forward to that,” Hagipantelis said.

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