Sheens Aust coach

NEW Australian Rugby League coach Tim Sheens says his long- evity in the job will be determined by the Kangaroos' ability to reclaim and preserve the No.1 world ranking.

Just hours after being appointed to succeed Ricky Stuart in the game's most-coveted coaching role, Sheens set the bar at the highest-possible level, with winning the only option.

“I don't know about every Test, but you've got to win the series,” Sheens said.

“I think the expectations are that we're the favourites, and no matter whether it's going to be in England and on tour - where that really levels you - it will be a bit like the Australian cricket team at its best, and that is you're favourites and you're going to have to live with that tag.

“The pressure's there, you've got to learn to live with that though.

“It's alright to say the other (Test) sides play well and we've been beaten before, but at the end of the day, people will be expecting as we will be expecting to win the series, to win the games that we play.

“We're all going to have to live up to that, including me.”

The last two coaches to hold the national position, Stuart and current St George Illawarra coach Wayne Bennett, both paid the ultimate price for failure.

Bennett's tenure wasn't renewed following Australia's stunning 24-0 capitulation to New Zealand in the 2005 Tri-Nations final, while Stuart's final game in charge was the Kangaroos' tumultuous loss in last year's World Cup final.

While Stuart was still favoured to keep the job despite the shock loss, his post-game abuse of referee Ashley Klein eventually put paid to any chance he had of remaining in the post.

Enter Sheens, who beat off Manly's premiership-winning mentor Des Hasler and Queensland Origin coach Mal Meninga for the role, Meninga's chances cruelled by his reluctance to give up his position with the Maroons.

Queensland's contingent on the ARL board pushed hard for Meninga to be allowed to do both roles, but their request was knocked back.

That's not to say Sheens isn't deserving of the appointment, with his four premierships and record mark of 568 first grade games as coach testament to that.

Until now Sheens' highest honour had been a short stint as NSW coach in 1991, and even he admitted he thought he may have missed the Test boat.

“Yeah, about 30 years ago,” he said.

“Coaching your country is an honour not too many people get.

“I always say the first in anything is the thing you remember, your first premierships - with this club and with Canberra - and of course this is a first for me and it sits very, very highly.

“It's the highest honour I've been awarded in this game.”

First up for Sheens is a re-match with the Kiwis in Brisbane on May 8, when he will likely go up against his Wests Tigers linchpin Benji Marshall.

But the veteran coach was reluctant to discuss the possible match-up.

“It's a long way away before we start talking about who's going to be playing and tactics and things,” he said.

Sheens said he hadn't had time yet to sit down and think about things like support staff, but admitted he would lend the ear of his predecessor in an attempt to get up to speed with the national set-up.

“I guarantee the first thing I will be doing is going to (Stuart) to talk about what he thinks about the current squad,” Sheens said.

“Without having played a game since last year, a lot of the current squad I would think would be considered.

“His thoughts would be invaluable and I'm sure he'll be more than happy to sit down and talk about it.”

Sheens' call-up has left the City Origin coaching position vacant, with Hasler and the Gold Coast's Cartwright considered early favour- ites for the role.



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