Wayne Bennett: A Wonderful Legacy Tainted By A Bitter Ending
To borrow a line from Richmond footy club living legend Kevin Bartlett, 'lying is the second language of the AFL.'
It’s not often Aussie Rules has much in common with the NRL, but said language transcends codes and the latest case in point went down yesterday when the Brisbane Broncos booted veteran coach Wayne Bennett after a month of jaw dropping drama to rival a new season of Keeping up with the Kardashians.
In a nutshell, the Broncos had told Bennett in September he would not coach the club beyond 2019 when his current contract expired. He didn’t like it and things have never been the same.
The 68-year-old agreed to terms at South Sydney and had been planning their pre-season and next year’s campaign while still contracted to coach Brisbane next year.
Fast forward to today, and Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold is Brisbane-bound in a coaching swap of sorts, while master coach Bennett will now lead a fifth League club.
This mess a stark contrast to 2008 when Brisbane granted Bennett a release to join St George Illawarra in a fairly amicable parting of ways.
Not this time.
Two months ago, Bennett told reporters, “I made it easy for them last time, I’m not doing it this time.”
The Broncos were on notice. Let the games begin.
Things went into overdrive over the weekend after Bennett spoke at a media conference on Friday and declared he’d remain with the club next season.
Sorry what? When even folk in AFL fishbowl Melbourne know what the lay of the land is it’s hardly a well-kept secret.
Brisbane would learn that Bennett had been speaking with Souths players in detail, including Alex Johnson about a positional move to the wing next season, and had upended Seibold’s planned pre-season camp at the Australian Institute of Sport and changed it to an army style training trip.
The Broncos deemed this a breach of contract and, with players returning to headquarters to begin season 2019 preparations today, pulled the pin on Bennett yesterday, reportedly costing him a $900,000 payout for the final year of his deal.
Yesterday, his phone was switched off so after multiple attempts, Broncos CEO Paul White delivered the news via text message and email. Less than ideal in any circumstance.
So, after a dazzling career featuring a total of 25 seasons, six premierships and more than 600 first grade games this is how it ends for Brisbane and Bennett.
A wonderful legacy will unfortunately be tainted by this bitter ending, working relationships and friendships impacted, some now irreparable.
Daily Telegraph sports editor-at-large, columnist and long-time NRL scribe Phil “Buzz” Rothfield penned a column today on why the club simply had to sack Bennett.
And he explained it in terms which made sense to this Melburnian whose purple patch of League interest, to be frank, starts and ends at AAMI Park, the home of the mighty Storm.
READ MORE: Wayne Bennett's Fall From Broncos' Grace
Rothfield compared the sporting saga to that of supermarket chains Woolworths and Coles.
Imagine Bennett was the boss of Woolies and hadn’t delivered the target or reached goals set four years ago so the board voted not to extend his contract beyond 2020, he wrote.
So, Bennett goes and signs at major rival Coles and starts chatting to their senior staff about their roles and futures and begins planning his arrival, undermining the current Coles boss in the process, even though he’s got a year left on his Woolworths contract to serve.
Buzz is bang on, that kinds thing wouldn’t fly in the business world and it sure wasn’t going to be A-Okay in footy land.
When it comes to club, coach and player negotiations, there will never be absolute transparency but this total disaster sets a pretty icky precedent by some of the biggest names the game has ever seen.