Rugby league legend Paul Gallen has praised the “footy smarts” of Tim Sheens and labelled the premiership-winning mentor “the best coach” he ever played under, in the wake of his Wests Tigers reunion.
The Tigers announced on Saturday that Sheens had been re-engaged by the club as head of football performance, despite the ugly split between the two parties when he was sacked as head coach after the 2012 season. Sheens threatened to sue the joint-venture club, before the matter was eventually solved in late 2014.
Gallen overlooked a long list of mentors, many of them highly acclaimed, in declaring Sheens the greatest coach he ever played under.
The 348-match Cronulla icon was coached by John Lang, Chris Anderson, Stuart Raper, Ricky Stuart, Shane Flanagan and John Morris at the Sharks.
Gallen also played under Graham Murray, Craig Bellamy, Stuart and Laurie Daley with the Blues, while he was coached by Sheens and Mal Meninga in Test footy with the Kangaroos.
The former NSW captain said Sheens’ ability to manipulate a game plan placed him above the rest.
“I’ve got to say, Tim Sheens was the best coach I was ever coached by or had anything to do with. He was absolutely brilliant … I really enjoyed playing under him for Australia,” Gallen said on 2GB’s Wide World of Sports radio.
“He just knew the game inside-out and the way he’d change the game plan so subtly, that it wouldn’t confuse you at all but confuse the defensive line, was absolutely outstanding.”
Two of Gallen’s most treasured feats in rugby league, captaining NSW to the 2014 State of Origin title and the Sharks to the 2016 NRL premiership, were achieved under Daley and Flanagan respectively.
Gallen was also coached by Stuart over the majority of Queensland’s eight-year domination, a time in their careers that nearly took them to breaking point but also fostered an inseparable bond.
“Being coached by Ricky Stuart and Shane Flanagan was a highlight of mine, and obviously winning a premiership with Flanno was awesome,” Gallen said.
“But as far as footy smarts go there’s not many better than Tim Sheens.”
Sheens won five premierships as a head coach, driving the Raiders to the pinnacle in 1989, 1990 and 1994, and tasting premiership glory with the Tigers in 2005.
That grand final victory saw the Tigers defeat Johnathan Thurston’s Cowboys 30-16.
But the club has enjoyed very little success since Sheens’ exit, and current coach Michael Maguire is attempting to guide the Concord club to its first finals appearance since 2011.
The Tigers have the longest current finals drought in the league and their fans are understandably desperate for a rise back up the ladder.
While Sheens is returning to the Tigers as head of football performance, not head coach, Gallen said he must again become the club’s driving force.
“He will be a brilliant appointment (for the Tigers). Hopefully he takes over there,” Gallen said.
“There seems to be a fair bit going on over there with a lot of people involved. But him being head of football – he just needs to take charge and tell everyone what to do.”
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