Tim Sheens has resigned as Australia’s national coach to take up a three-year contract as full-time director of rugby with Salford Red Devils.
The 64-year-old former Canberra, Wests Tigers and North Queensland boss, who guided the Kangaroos to victory in the 2013 World Cup, has spent the last two months working at the Red Devils on a short-term basis at the invitation of owner Marwan Koukash and has now decided to make the role permanent.
“Now we’ve survived successfully in Super League, I’ve had a good talk with the family and to Marwan,” Sheens said. “He offered me a three-year deal and we’ve accepted it.
“So I’ve resigned from the Australian group and I’ll be ready to start in November.”
Sheens had been in charge of Australia since 2008 when he succeeded Ricky Stuart after their shock World Cup final defeat to New Zealand and guided them to 26 wins in his 31 matches. Only Bob Fulton, with 40 Tests, has more experience at national level.
However, Sheens was not expected to be re-appointed in November after they lost three consecutive Tests to the Kiwis and with it the world number-one ranking.
After retiring as a player at Penrith in 1984, Sheens began his coaching career with the Panthers and took them to their first Finals appearance in 1985.
He also held roles at Canberra, where he won NRL Premierships in 1989, 1990 and 1994, North Queensland and Wests Tigers, where he last coached up to 2012.
Sheens, who initially worked at Salford as a consultant earlier in the year, will return to Australia and be back next month to take up a role that runs to the end 2018, when he will be 68.
Sheens has announced that former player Ian Watson, who has been acting head coach since the departure of Iestyn Harris two months ago, will remain in charge of the team, with assistance from Martin Gleeson and Garreth Carvell.
“It is a move in a slightly different direction for me,” Sheens said. “I will be involved in the coaching, but I’m not the senior coach, that will be Watto and I will be assisting him.
“He’s done a great job in the Middle 8s and he should take all the credit for the club surviving in Super League.
“I’ll be a sounding board for him and help him where I can.
“My job will be to make sure everything in the club is heading in the right direction, from marketing and everything. I have had a lot of experience in professional football and I think I can add a little bit here and there. The club is running well but, if you want to move ahead, you have to keep improving.”
Sheens revealed the club will not be spending up to the salary cap in 2016, but announced six new signings headed by St Helens back rower Mark Flanagan.
Other recruits include Warrington Wolves scrum-half Gareth O’Brien, Huddersfield Giants prop Craig Kopczak and Widnes Vikings front rower Phil Joseph as well as overseas duo Robert Lui (North Queensland) and Ben Murdoch-Masila (Penrith).
Salford have also given a new two-year contract to former London Broncos prop Olsi Krasniqi and promoted to the first-team squad academy players Matthew Wilkinson, Liam Bent, Josh Bibby, Ryan Lannon and Josh Wood.