Wests Tigers hope to use a new $78 million center of excellence as a launchpad for a long-overdue era of dominance on the field.
As the club gave 9News an exclusive look into the Concord mega-centre on Sunday, a training field, NRL and NRLW dressing rooms, a gym, a swimming pool, a sauna and a steam room were shown off.
But there’s more.
The club now also has its own barber.
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The master-hub, inspired by the New York Jets and Los Angeles Dodgers, is a far cry from the shabby venues in which the Tigers ran a high-performance rugby league program for more than 20 years.
It’s fitting that the center of excellence has opened just in time for the start of the Tim Sheens-Benji Marshall succession plan, as the club attempts to move beyond a decade void of finals football.
“To have one ground where it’s a one-stop shop, (where) we can do all our things from here — I think it’s going to be a massive boost for the players,” Wests Tigers forward Alex Twal told 9News.
“When you’re coming to a new club and you see these sort of facilities and these sort of opportunities to work in and around this new space — I think it’s definitely going to be something that people and players would look forward to.”
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During Sheens’ tenure as head coach between 2003 and 2012, he oversaw a weights program out of shipping containers.
Life at Wests Tigers is now much easier as Sheens, the club’s director of football, prepares for his second stint as head coach of the joint venture.
Sheens, the man who led Wests Tigers to the 2005 NRL premiership, will steer the club in the 2023 and 2024 seasons, before Marshall — then a 20-year-old wonderkid in the title-winning team — takes over on a three-year contract.
Marshall, now 37, will serve as Sheens’ assistant for two years before jumping into the hot seat.
Wests Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe is rapt with the center of excellence, but he warns the glamorous digs don’t guarantee a return to the glory days.
“We’re not silly enough to think that just because we’re going into a world-class facility that automatically defines a change in results,” Pascoe said.
“In the end it comes down to the culture and the people and the standards, and we’re very firm on that.”
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