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Benji Marshall and Scott Fulton feud, Tim Sheens coaching future, roster, recruitment targets, Aidan Sezer

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Benji Marshall looks set to get his wish, with the incoming Wests Tigers coach reportedly given the green light to sign former Canberra Raiders halfback Aidan Sezer.

That is according to a report from The Sydney Morning Heraldon Monday night as the club moved to address growing tension between Marshall and recruitment boss Scott Fulton.

Speaking to Fox League’s ‘NRL 360’ on Monday, Tigers chairman Lee Hagipantelis said the final say on recruitment matters always rests with the “head coach”.

Although in this instance, Fulton is said to have disagreed with Marshall and instead was interested in luring Penrith’s Jack Cogger to the club next season.

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Hagipantelis described it as one example of “professional tension” between the pair in an interview with The Heraldon Monday, adding the pair won’t always agree on every player.

“And that’s fair enough,” he added.

“They need to engage in robust discussion. They need to be transparent. But eventually they’ll either land on the same page or they won’t, with respect to a particular player.

“And if they do or they don’t, they move on. They respect the other person’s decision.”

The tension between Marshall and Fulton though is reported to have been simmering long before the disagreement over who the Tigers should sign to fill their void at halfback.

The fact Fulton was signed without the knowledge of Marshall or current head coach Tim Sheens obviously did not help.

At this stage it looks like Marshall will win out with Sezer to sign with the club on a short-term deal as the Tigers explore a bigger name to target ahead of the 2025 season.

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Aidan Sezer could be back in the NRL. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)Source: AAP

“Lee said the coach gets the ultimate say and the word is Aidan Sezer will be there next year. It’s a one-year deal on minimum money, there’s no one else out there,” The Daily Telegraph’s Brent Read said on Fox League’s ‘NRL 360’.

“You talk about Jack Cogger, he’s not going to want one year. He’s probably going to want longer than that. It [a one-year deal] gives them an opportunity to patiently target someone else. It’s for a purpose.

“… The problem with Cogger is he wants a three-year deal… he’s been in and out of the system for a while now. He had three years at the Knights and two years at the Bulldogs. He’ll want what, $300,000 to 500,000?

“He’s playing at Penrith at the moment, no disrespect to Jack, but anyone could play in that halves position and do the job he is doing right now, in my opinion. That takes up a lot of your cap.”

The Tigers also have interest in young Manly playmaker Latu Fainu, with the signing of Sezer to have no impact on the club’s pursuit of the talented 18-year-old.

Interest from Wayne Bennett’s Dolphins, on the other hand, could spoil their bid to sign Fainu, who has been given permission by Manly to negotiate with rival clubs.

While the attraction of playing for the NRL’s newest franchise is obvious, a move to the lowly Tigers presents a risk for Fainu and his management is taking active steps to address that.

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According to The Herald, they “want a clearer picture of the Tigers’ future” before making a call on where he signs.

That in itself exposes what The Daily Telegraph’s David Riccio described as a “massive problem” for the club at the moment.

“Not everyone is on the same page at the Tigers which is a massive, massive problem,” Riccio said on SEN 1170 Breakfast.

It comes after reports a pair of player agents held crisis meetings with the club last week, expressing their concern over the treatment and development of their clients.

Players are also said to have asked their agents to seek confirmation that there will be a coaching change for the 2024 season.

That is part of the reason why Fulton still is of value to the Tigers according to Phil Rothfield, who believes the recruitment boss can still turn things around.

“His agent takes him up, tours Redcliffe, meets Wayne Bennett. Hard not to be impressed with Wayne there?” Rothfield said on ‘NRL 360’ of Fainu.

“Then he’s got the Wests Tigers. He’s got Benji and Tim Sheens shaping up for a second wooden spoon. They want Fulton there because they’ve got confidence he can rebuild the roster.

“… He’s [Marshall] not going to get them [marquee players] himself, he’s tried. He tried Mitchell Moses, he’s tried to sign other players like Tyson Frizell and hasn’t been able to do it. He needs help.”

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Benji Marshall has had a tough initiation. (Photo by Scott Gardiner/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

NRL 360 co-host Braith Anasta though said he felt “uncomfortable” at the suggestion player agents were “dictating terms” to the Tigers, worrying about the impact it could have on Marshall.

“Benji Marshall is in his first year as a Tigers legend who they signed on a five-year deal to take this club into the future. We are in the back-end of the season and the club is already undermining him,” Anasta said.

“… We’ve got a guy here who is a legend, who is very experienced in the game, who they’ve given an opportunity to take this club to the next level. Benji needs to plan this.

“It’s about personalities too… it’s about what type of players you want at the Wests Tigers. Benji wants to look for that player now because they haven’t had enough of them — those consistent, hardworking, resilient players who win premierships. Players who bring potential premierships to the club. He knows exactly what he wants.”

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Marshall is still set to work as an assistant under head coach Sheens next year and Hagipantelis told ‘NRL 360’ that was still the plan next year.

“That’s the plan, that’s what his contract says,” he said.

It was hardly a ringing endorsement for Sheens though and The Daily Telegraph’s Brent Read struggles to see how the veteran coach remains at the club next year if results don’t change.

“If they continue playing the way they are going to have to change things at the end of the year. That’s pretty clear,” Read said.

“You can’t finish with a wooden spoon [and] win three or four games all year. You’ve got to make change if that is the case, no one survives that. It doesn’t matter if you’re Tim Sheens… if that’s how the rest of the year pans out it’s hard to see Tim being there next year.”

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