London Broncos v Hull KR: Tim Sheens commits even if Robins lose Super League spot

Tim Sheens
Tim Sheens
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SUCH is Tim Sheens’s longevity in rugby league that Hull KR’s next head coach can call upon leading greats like Mal Meninga, Laurie Daley and Brad Clyde to the 1989 Australian Premiership Grand Final.

That was the first of his four such titles, three more coming with that wondrous Canberra side and a fairytale success with Wests Tigers in 2005 before, of course, taking on the Kangaroos and leading them to the World Cup three years ago.

Throw in a State of Origin series success with New South Wales and the fact he was the first coach in Australian history to reach 600 first-grade games and you can understand why Rovers chairman Neil Hudgell and head of rugby Jamie Peacock are so pleased at securing him on a three-year deal starting in 2017.

Sheens, whose remit will include “nurturing” Rovers’ next coach, is currently just over a year into a three-year deal with Salford Red Devils as their director of rugby.

However, as he explained after being released to take up the post at Craven Park at the end of this campaign, coaching is his “passion” and, for all he is now aged 65, he is not yet ready to give it up.

The irony, of course, is that both Hull KR and Salford are fighting for Super League survival in the Qualifiers and it would be no surprise if both actually ended up in the Million Pound Game in three weeks time to decide the final top-flight spot.

Salford’s owner Marwan Koukash has intimated Sheens, who has been mentoring head coach Ian Watson, would step aside immediately if that was the case to avoid any conflict of interest.

For his part, Sheens has said he will take up the Rovers post even if they are relegated but he will certainly be keen to see if they successfully negotiate tomorrow’s tricky encounter at Championship side London Broncos.

For his fellow Australian James Webster, the 37-year-old who has been in interim charge since Chris Chester was sacked just three games into the Robins’ season, working with the veteran in some capacity, probably as an assistant, is a prospect he is relishing.

“Tim is a big signing for the club,” he said, with Rovers’ top-flight future under added jeopardy following the home defeat to Championship Leigh Centurions a week ago.

“I’ve not had any input or talk about it but I’m looking forward to it. He brings a lot of experience. He’s been in the game 30 or 40 years so I’m looking forward to working with him. He would have coached against me as a player whilst he was at the (North Queensland) Cowboys and the Tigers but our paths haven’t crossed a huge amount.

“But that’s what we’re here for (Super League survival). Our focus needs to remain on London and the only chance for us to be successful is to win these games.

“We know the London game changes the landscape of things.”

If Rovers can defeat London and then win their remaining two fixtures at part-time Featherstone Rovers and at home to Super League rivals Huddersfield Giants, they should be able to secure third place and survival.

However, even if they do produce that chain of results, it is not certain they will avoid the fourth versus fifth play-off.

It is no surprise, though, that the club are pulling out all the stops to hold onto the Super League status they achieved 10 years ago.

That includes former Great Britain captain Peacock, who retired after helping Leeds Rhinos complete the treble last October, putting the boots on once more at Ealing tomorrow.

Furthermore, Rovers’ captain Terry Campese, the Australian stand-off who has played just five times this season and was ruled out for the rest of the season in June due to a hamstring issue, is also included in their 19-man squad.

Vice-captain Graeme Horne is back, too, for the first time since May but they have lost Maurice Blair, their best player this season, as he has returned to Australia for his brother’s funeral.

Fellow Australian Albert Kelly, the mercurial half-back dropped for the crucial Leigh defeat after returning late from his own trip home, remains out of favour with Webster saying there may be news on his future come Monday.

On Peacock’s switch from the office to front-row, he said: “It’s like you’re trying to teach your dad what to do!

“Jamie has increased the intensity in training. I’m not 100 per cent sure how he’ll be used but he’s added something to us in preparation.

“He’s intense; this game is about mentality and getting the job done. We’re a side that’s lacked elder statesmen at times and he gives us that.

“It’d have been a tough decision for Jamie. Bowing out at the top with the treble would have been a fantastic way to finish but it shows how dedicated he is to the cause.

“We might start him! But we’ll see how he pulls up in training, which he’s got through well.”

Webster will also see how Campese completes today’s final practice session but won’t take “any risks”.