Wests Tigers coach Tim Sheens has emerged as a surprise candidate to replace Matthew Elliott at Penrith next season, with the four-time premiership-winning mentor understood to be at the top of a hit list to be discussed at a Panthers board meeting today.

Penrith directors have been considering a new coach for more than a week after voting to sack Elliott on the morning of the April 17 clash with Melbourne but insist no decision has been made on his successor at the end of the season.

As revealed in Saturday’s Herald, former St George Illawarra coach Nathan Brown, NSW Origin mentor Ricky Stuart and Elliott’s assistant, Steve Georgallis, are the other leading contenders for the job.

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But the Herald understands that Sheens is the No.1 target of Penrith officials hoping to persuade him to return to the club he played 166 first-grade games for between 1970 and 1982 and began his coaching career with after that, taking the Panthers to their first finals series, in 1985.

Despite the Tigers board endorsing a two-year contract extension for Sheens at a meeting on April 6, the Australian Test coach is yet to finalise his future, and it is understood he was unhappy with reports it was a done deal for him to remain at the club.

English club Widnes, who have been re-admitted to Super League next season, have also targeted Sheens, and he has been linked to the Wigan job made vacant by South Sydney’s appointment of Michael Maguire, but the strength of the Australian dollar has made a move overseas less appealing for coaches and players.

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Tigers chief executive Stephen Humphreys was aware of the interest in Sheens but remains confident the man who steered the joint venture to the 2005 premiership will remain at the helm until at least 2013.

Read more at the Sydney Morning Herald