To limit the Broncos’ success to one man shackles the club forever, writes Paul Kent.
To limit the Broncos’ success to one man shackles the club forever, writes Paul Kent.

'The Broncos can’t afford a Bennett resurrection'

OPINION

Many years back, when Wayne Bennett was still circulating among the A-listers, a Queensland university commissioned students to write a thesis on one of two subjects, each according to their religion.

Jesus Christ or Wayne Bennett were the two choices.

For some it was hard to spot the difference (Bennett has the crooked smile, Jesus couldn't coach slide defence), but with the advantage of time, and while some still await the Second Coming, it emerges that Bennett has taken a small lead, professionally speaking.

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Can the Broncos survive a third coming of Wayne Bennett?.
Can the Broncos survive a third coming of Wayne Bennett?.

He is intent on making a Third Coming.

Bennett was given little choice but to confirm he was interested in a third stint at Brisbane after Broncos chairman Karl Morris would not rule out this week bringing Bennett back as a coaching director to oversee whoever is employed as the new coach.

For the Broncos, who play big brother Gold Coast Saturday night in a wild hope to claim their fourth win of the season, this must be confusing times.

Wasn't Bennett the coach the club decided had reached his use by date just two seasons ago?

It emerges a large reason behind the push to return Bennett to Brisbane is the worrying logic that Bennett is the only man who knows how to make the Broncos successful.

It is a flawed, almost fatal way to think.

Bennett is 70. How much longer can the Broncos pray at the House of Bennett before, to put this delicately, it comes to an end?

And where do they turn then?

Wayne Bennett brought great success to the Broncos. Picture: Peter Wallis
Wayne Bennett brought great success to the Broncos. Picture: Peter Wallis

To limit the club's success to one man shackles the club forever.

To even consider it also reveals how lost the Broncos currently are and that sacking coach Anthony Seibold did not solve their problems, only change them.

This week the campaign began.

And the Broncos seem to have no idea what they are getting themselves into in the foreseeable future even though only a few stones need to be kicked over to see what might be in store.

When Bennett coached Brisbane in 2018 he claimed he was unwittingly dragged into the campaign for the Broncos to decide on their coach beyond the 2019 season (his last contracted in Brisbane).

He indicated he would like to coach beyond 2019 and that part of the deal would be to mentor his replacement, in this case Jason Demetriou, now doing a fine job at the Rabbitohs.

It got messy, amid allegations and uproar Bennett that was being railroaded out of town as the club's greatest figure, until Morris finally revealed he had sent Bennett a letter offering him a role in 2020 as a coaching director.

It was the same day Bennett denied he ever received such a letter.

A month earlier Bennett said he had no interest in a coaching director job.

"That can change pretty quickly but right now I feel like I want to coach. That's what I do. I'm a coach," he said in July 2018.

Wayne Bennett’s departure from the Broncos was … bitter.
Wayne Bennett’s departure from the Broncos was … bitter.

Bennett instead pressed the Broncos to make a call on their coach for the 2020 season.

And so they did, and Seibold was appointed.

If it can be believed, it got even uglier as the season ended until, finally, Bennett was released a year early on his contract as the Broncos and South Sydney swapped coaches.

And now it is a chance of happening again.

The circus, if not necessarily the Third Coming.

This week's olive branch from Morris, with quiet approval from Bennett, has set it all in motion again, just on two years since it last happened.

Such is the desperation of the Broncos.

Didn't anybody learn?

Morris has given no indication what has changed other than both parties are now desperate.

The Broncos are unsure who to appoint as next coach, nervous about giving it to the popular elect, Kevin Walters, in case it turns bad again and they might have to be accountable.

Bennett had indicated he would like to continue coaching but after South Sydney outsmarted him, going early to contract Demetriou as head coach beginning the 2021 season, Bennett has seen job windows close at North Queensland, the Warriors, St George Illawarra and Canterbury.

Can Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters work together at the Brisbane Broncos? Picture: Jono Searle
Can Wayne Bennett and Kevin Walters work together at the Brisbane Broncos? Picture: Jono Searle

 

The Broncos are the last job available.

So now, after knocking back the move to a coaching director's role in 2018, Bennett is suddenly now interested. It is partly to heal the "pain" of his dismissal, he says, at a club he always loved.

Of course.

The Broncos have not asked why, or how it might actually look.

The new coach, given one is yet to be appointed, has clearly not been given a say, with everybody simply assuming the two likely contenders in Walters and Paul Green would happily accept Bennett - "That's what I do. I'm a coach" - overseeing them.

We should have learned long ago that everything old is new again in rugby league.

Bennett has coached in the big competition since 1987 when he slipped quietly into Canberra.

Back then he was regarded as an assistant, unheralded and underestimated. When the unlikely Raiders made the grand final later that season a caravan of Sydney league reporters headed down the highway looking for the gravedigger story and found it not in Jesus Christ, but a reasonable facsimile.

Don Furner was the godfather of Canberra rugby league and a man without ego, and when the Raiders took the training field that day Furner stood comfortably on the sideline and entertained reporters, happy to let Bennett do the heavy lifting on the field.

After an hour or so Bennett looked to the sideline.

"What's the time, Don?"

Furner looked at his watch, gave the time, and with that Bennett called the session closed.

The story hit the papers the next day.

"Coaching's All Right If You've Got The Time," read the headline.

It was the announcement of Bennett as a head coach in waiting.

Now, as Demetriou pilots the Rabbitohs and Bennett considers stepping into a backroom role, it might have gone full circle.

WITH each week the NRL's handling of the COVID crisis appears more and more formidable, handing ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys and recently confirmed chief executive Andrew Abdo a huge tick.

There is no doubt the NRL has come through the crisis, which isn't over yet, in much better shape than the other big sides of Australian sport.

News that broke Friday revealing Channel 7 was looking to get out of its rich cricket contract has the sport on its knees, with their being the very real possibility the summer will begin with cricket officials hurriedly trying to negotiate a free to air broadcaster.

Super Rugby was already shattered.

The AFL got its competition up and running, and made a solid effort of matching the league, but a few subtle rule changes have seen a myriad of low-scoring, highly boring games.

And let's remember the AFL also borrowed a massive $600 million early on to get through the crisis which has to be paid back, with interest.

The NRL never put itself in that position but, not only that, the rules changes implemented upon the game's return made it even more attractive, a fact the AFL, rugby and cricket are all struggling to replicate.

It could be argued all three codes have returned, but in a diminished capacity.

It could also be argued the NRL has shone.

 

Originally published as Kent: The Broncos can't afford a Bennett resurrection


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