Tim Sheens, a cigar and why you always need a Grand Final back-up plan – The Western Weekender

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In a week of no second chances it helps to have a back-up plan.

History is waiting for you, and you’ll probably run past it when you take the field.

It’s right there, sitting on top of the plinth in the form of the premiership trophy.

Norm and Arthur, frozen in time, enemies for 80 minutes and great mates for life.

Craig Bellamy knows a thing or two about Grand Finals and what it takes to win one.

He also knows that, no matter how many experienced players you have in your team, the last game of the year is usually the hardest one to win.

Of the last three Grand Finals the Storm has played in they’ve lost two of them.

Experience means nothing.

If it did, the Sharks couldn’t have beaten the Storm in 2016.

They got them by starting fast and confident, making Melbourne use up plenty of gas in the first half and then scrambling like hell on their own goal-line on the few occasions the Storm had chances inside the red zone.

Tim Sheens in 2005. Photo: NRL Images.

And when you’ve won 17 games in a row, as the Panthers have, how could you not be confident?

They were far from perfect against the Rabbitohs in the Preliminary Final, but having the best defence in the competition allows you to take a chance with the ball, knowing that you have the speed and mobility to cover for the sort of mistake that costs points for most other teams.

At their run-and-gun best, the Panthers remind you of the surprise packet Tigers of 2005. A constant threat from dummy-half, the brilliance of the halves and a fullback always pushing up through the middle to make sure the half chances become full points.

If it all comes together they won’t need a Plan B, they’re good enough to do their own lap, making their way through the streamers and confetti the way the Tigers did 15 years ago.

That old Panther himself, Tim Sheens, was the tactical mastermind of the first and only Premiership for the joint-venture between Wests and Balmain.

Sheens had led the fabulous Green Machine of the Canberra Raiders to three Premierships in a six-year span from 1989 to 1994, and made it a ritual to light up one of Havana’s best in the dressing room following those heady victories.

When Benji and Robbie sent the Tigers fans wild in 2005, it had been 11 years since Sheens had reached for a stogie.

He’d carried one in his kit bag for all that time, waiting for the chance to light up a Cuban and smile proudly at the scene in front of him. It turns out that football kit bags don’t make great humidors, and that old cheroot crumbled like a biscuit in a blender when the coach attempted to follow his own tradition.

Quicker than a Marshall flick pass, he reached once more into his bag to find a second and much fresher cigar that he’d brought along, just in case.

Nobody in the dressing room that night was even mildly surprised the freshly-minted four-time Premiership winner had the foresight to cover all contingencies.

Now that’s a back-up plan!

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