HULL KR chief Tim Sheens has been coaching for almost 35 years, but he has no desire to finish his illustrious career any time soon and has “indicated” to the East Yorkshire club he wants to continue beyond a contract that is approaching its final year.
Whether or not the Robins will take up his offer to go on into 2020 remains to be seen at this early point – no talks have begun with the new season set to start in February.
Sheens, 68, lifted the 2013 World Cup with the Kangaroos having earlier recorded four Premiership wins in Australia and coached more first-grade games than anyone else in the competition Down Under.
As a former New South Wales State of Origin coach, too, his stature as one of the sport’s greats will remain intact whatever.
Clearly he still has work to finish with the Robins, but he sees 2019 – the third and final year of his contract – as the time when his work could come to fruition.
Sheens’s first year was spent helping them out of the Championship after their surprise relegation at the hands of his then club Salford Red Devils.
You can’t go forever – we all know that – but it just comes down to a bit of supply and demand. If I’m in demand and people want me to coach I’ll be involved in coaching. If I start forgetting what my name is then maybe it’s time to start giving it away.Hull KR head coach, Tim Sheens
The last campaign was a difficult return to the elite although they showed their promise with a powerful finish in the Qualifiers.
“It’s got the potential to be the best team I’ve had here,” he told The Yorkshire Post, with Kane Linnett, the stellar new signing from the NRL, joining the likes of Leeds Rhinos Grand Final winning duo Mitch Garbutt and Jimmy Keinhorst plus the experienced Weller Hauraki for 2019.
“That’s not denigrating anyone else who has played at the club. I just think as a squad we all know each other pretty well – a good percentage do anyway – and it’s looking stronger in my opinion. Time will tell of course.
“It’s Super League and in a 30-game season a lot of tough football is played. There’s a lot of strong sides. At the end of the year we’ll know, but I’m looking forward to it.”
He has told the club’s hierarchy that he does not want to return to Australia at the end of the season.
“I’ve indicated that to the owners and they know that so it’ll be one of those things,” added Sheens, whose side start with a home game against Hull FC on February 1.
“What will be will be. Again, it’s out of my hands. You never say never and you want to continue. But it really comes down to what the club wants, what they see the future of the club is and that’s out of my hands.
“From my point of view it’s preparation of the team and getting those things organised. If I do that well other things tend to look after themselves.
“My main aim is to make sure we get a strong side out onto the field ready for that derby in that first game.”
There is no doubting Sheens’s passion and love for the game remains undimmed and he continues to be one of the sport’s great thinkers.
But what is it that has driven him on for so long – he took charge of his first club Penrith in 1984 with his first title coming five years later at Canberra Raiders – and how does he maintain his energy and appetite for it all?
“I don’t know, it’s one of those things,” he said.
“I remember my mother saying in primary school how the nun assessing my abilities at school said, ‘he’d be a much better student if his head came in off the playing fields’.
“So, I suppose from an early age I was interested in sports day and rugby league.
“I played it from the time I was seven and barely missed a year really.
“I’ve just been lucky to be involved in the sport and make a living and work with some fantastic people.
“It’s one of those jobs as they say that’s ideal – if you can get something that you’d do for nothing, but you get well paid for it, and it’s not really a job.
“It’s really my interest in life is sport and in particular this code and this game of rugby league.”
Sheens conceded the time will come when he does have to call it a day, but remains confident he still has much to offer.
Certainly, plenty of the Robins players who have worked with him so far and tapped into his vast knowledge, will attest to that.
“You can’t go forever – we all know that – but it just comes down to a bit of supply and demand,” he added.
“If I’m in demand and people want me to coach I’ll be involved in coaching. If I start forgetting what my name is then maybe it’s time to start giving it away.
“I don’t know. If you don’t want to get up at five in the morning and get to work and prepare and work with them and go through the stresses of the ups and downs of sport then that’s when you start to think you should give it away.
“I’d like to think I would know that, but right at the moment enthusiasm comes from within the playing group, the club, new faces you meet.
“It’s the new people that come and go into the club, the teaching of them and learning from them, and them learning from you, all of those things besides. As a professional coach, you have to have a percentage of wins as well.”
However, one thing has never wavered for Sheens; his love of being out on the training field, one of the reasons he left his director of rugby role at Salford to join Rovers.
“The actual bonus comes regularly for me from the feedback to me and of seeing someone learn,” he explained.
“Young players coming through and older players taking note of what you’re saying and putting it into their game.
“But it’s me learning from them as well – you’re never too experienced or too old to pick something up yourself.
“You have to address that. I did use to drop a ball or throw a forward pass when I was playing so you have to recognise they do that too and it’s a work in progress all the time.”
Indeed, for both Sheens and Rovers, it will be fascinating to see when – and how – this current work ends.