Tim Sheens has no time for snobbery as he prepares to make his bow as a club coach in England at the ripe old age of 66.
The Australian’s last competitive match as a head coach was the Anzac Test between Australia and New Zealand in front of a 32,000 crowd in Brisbane in May 2015, 18 months after guiding the Kangaroos to victory in the World Cup final at Old Trafford.
Sheens, a four-time Grand Final-winning coach who oversaw more than 600 games in the NRL, quit as Australia’s national coach in October 2015 to become director of rugby at Salford and was tempted back into a tracksuit role by Hull KR towards the end of last season.
He agreed a three-year contract with chairman Neil Hudgell before the Robins were relegated from Super League and stuck to his word after their fate was sealed by defeat to Salford in the Million-Pound Game.
“I told Neil that if he wanted to back away from it because of what happened, he could, but he was keen and I said I was as well,” Sheens said at Thursday’s season launch in Leigh.
“I don’t look down at any level of the game. Coaching is coaching and I’m at a professional club with players who are professional.”
Sheens’ first match in the Kingstone Press Championship is against former Super League and world club champions Bradford, who have their own high-profile Australian coach in Geoff Toovey, a former Kangaroo international who took Manly Sea Eagles to the Grand Final in 2013.
“They were looking for a high-profile guy and Geoff’s the man,” said Sheens. “He’s definitely going to bring passion to that team.”
With Toovey arriving on a holiday visa until his move is made permanent, former U16s coach Leigh Beattie will be in charge of Sunday’s match, the first competitive fixture since the club was re-formed.
“He’s observing and I’m picking the team at the minute,” said Beattie, who worked for Bradford as groundsman and kitman until being given the chance to join the coaching staff.
With the Bulls starting on minus 12 points following liquidation of the old club and having to replace a raft of senior players who left as free agents, including two to Hull KR, Beattie is acutely aware of the size of his task.
Leeds have loaned their arch rivals four players, including half-back Jordan Lilley, and more reinforcements are expected but Bradford are bracing themselves for a difficult start to the season, with relegation to League 1 a distinct threat.
“Obviously there was no club three weeks ago so they’ve worked very hard to get where we’re at,” said Beattie. “It’s going to be tough. We haven’t really had a pre-season so it will be a challenge.
“But we’re definitely up for it. We will start building towards the end and hopefully we’ll get there.”
Meanwhile, Sheens is happy to reach for his tracksuit after spending 12 months largely in a shirt and tie.
“You don’t do it for as long as I’ve done it and not miss it,” he said. “The year I had at Salford was very helpful in helping me understand the English system. When you come over as a rep coach, you’re only ever touching the surface.”
Promoted Toulouse get the Kingstone Press Championship season under way on Saturday when they entertain Batley, for whom former Bradford player and assistant coach Matt Diskin takes charge of his first match as head coach.