Sheens' decisions a worry
RUGBY LEAGUE fans who had waited two weeks to quench their post grand final thirst are entitled to agree with West Tigers officials that perhaps Tim Sheens is past his use-by date.
Sheens started his NRL coaching career with the Panthers in 1984, before Test skipper Cameron Smith was out of nappies. With almost 600 NRL games plus a handful of Tests and Origins as a coach, the capacity of 62-year-old Sheens to survive in the dog-eat-dog world of coaching is without question.
And while the Kangaroos won convincingly against the Kiwis in Townsville on Saturday night despite the skinny 18-10 scoreline, a couple of decisions by Sheens - sacked by the Tigers at the end of the NRL season - need to be queried.
Most notable was his call to start Tony Williams and leave Nate Myles on the bench - inexplicably until midway through the second half. And I'm still perplexed by the decision to select West Tigers skipper Robbie Farah on the bench when the Test hooker is captain Cameron Smith, arguably one the best players in the game, and the most durable.
But the decision to start Williams was at best dumbfounding, and the head scratching merely escalated when his first play-the-ball effort was befitting an eight-year-old. And his obvious inability to keep his mind on the job was further emphasised in the first set of six after the break when, standing offside at marker, he raked the ball from a Kiwi opponent, immediately putting the Kangaroos on the back foot.
On the night big may have been beautiful in the form of man-of-the-match Matt Scott, turncoat James Tamou and almost-deserter Sam Kasiano, but Williams - as he did for most of 2012 with the Sea Eagles and the Blues - looked well and truly out of his depth and contributed little.
Conversely, Nate Myles was named Dally M second rower of the year, was voted the Titans best and won the Wally Lewis Medal as player of the 2012 Origin series. Myles is also a noted 80-minute player - a dead-set advantage in the oppressive Townsville conditions.
Farah, I must concede, made an impact when he came on and cleverly started the movement that led to Australia's match-winning try. But his entry appeared to generate confusion - a case of too many cooks spoiling the broth.
Bringing Farah in to the Test match forced Smith out of his dummy half role - akin to asking grandpa to swap his comfy slippers for stilettos. With Smith, Cooper Cronk, Johnathan Thurston and - to a lesser extent - Billy Slater in the one side - surely another playmaker was overkill.
These coaching decisions aside, I thought the Test was a beauty. The young Kiwis certainly held their own and if they can field close to their strongest team in next year's World Cup in the UK they might just start favourites - for the first time ever.
The post-match demeanour of skipper Benji Marshall was that of a man on a mission - and a confident man at that.