Wayne Bennett coaching controversy, Paul Crawley column

Wayne Bennett coaching controversy, Paul Crawley column

There are so many double standards being used in the outcry over Wayne Bennett as a so-called double agent working behind the scenes to rebuild the Rabbitohs that it’s laughable.

Let’s start with Bennett talking to Souths players and interim coach Ben Hornby.

I’d be more shocked if Bennett didn’t help Hornby and the Rabbitohs players get their season back on track after he returns to Souths next year.

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Wayne Bennett is said to have played a major role in saving the Bunnies.Source: The Daily Telegraph

It’s no secret that Bennett remains good friends and a mentor to most of the players since he last coached there.

That includes Hornby, who captained Bennett to the championship with the Dragons in 2010. The two have remained very close ever since.

I have no doubt that if Dean Young were head coach and was looking for advice, Bennett would have no problem giving Young a boost either.

The same goes for Benji Marshall, with whom Bennett had built a great friendship while helping the Kiwis and when Benji was at Souths.

And is it any different to Jason Ryles making decisions about everything that happens at Parramatta in his spare time, after Craig Bellamy’s assistant at the Storm signed for the Eels this week?

Would people be outraged if they found out Ryles had made a sly appeal to Zac Lomax to convince the Dragons winger not to renew his deal?

It is a fact that people encourage that.

Or perhaps they should contact Mitch Moses or Clint Gutherson to help them figure out how to get the Eels on their toes at the end of the season so Ryles doesn’t end up in an even bigger hornet’s nest next year?

Or tell another player that he can look around.

Bennett and Hornby respond to rumours | 03:10

That’s exactly what Craig Fitzgibbon did when he took charge of Cronulla, while still serving as Trent Robinson’s assistant at the Roosters.

You may remember one of the big calls Fitzy made, when he contacted Shaun Johnson to let the New Zealand superstar know he was not wanted because Fitzgibbon Sharks had signed Nicho Hynes as a replacement for Johnson’s half.

You could go on for a while.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Bennett will be busy plotting the Dolphins’ downfall this week as they prepare for Thursday night’s game against the Bunnies.

But with the Dolphins now having lost four of their last five games since Bennett’s contract with the Bunnies was confirmed, while the Rabbitohs have won all five, the Bennett haters have come out of the closet.

Anyone who knows Bennett knows that he makes hundreds of phone calls every day and that he offers free advice in almost every conversation.

You’d be crazy not to listen, given his vast knowledge of life and rugby league.

There is no doubt that Bennett is doing what is best for him first and foremost.

But that’s also why he wouldn’t let the Dolphins win in favor of Souths.

Because his priority now is to make himself look good by trying to get the Dolphins into their first-ever Finals series.

Bennett’s critics will think I’m sticking up for the old man because I happen to get along with him better than some other journalists.

To be honest, I mostly want to use a little common sense.

The fact is the Dolphins are not going bust as they knew what was coming when they offered Bennett a three-year contract to launch the new NRL franchise.

And the Dolphins knew full well that Kristian Woolf would take over in 2025, because they had already signed him before that.

Since Bennett had no plans to ever retire, that gave him the right to look for a new job.

And Souths signed him because the 74-year-old is still one of the best coaches in the sport.

It’s a special story that should be celebrated, because Bennett is still so passionate about the game that he doesn’t want to retire.

But unfortunately that doesn’t fit into some people’s agendas.

Queensland’s duel-fullback dilemma | 03:01


We all know what a champion Kevvie Walters is.

But maybe it’s time for the Broncos coach to send a thank you card and a nice bottle of red wine to Jason Demetriou and Brad Arthur for outplaying him this season.

It’s astonishing that we still have nine weeks of the regular season left and last year’s finalists are in 11th place.

But more importantly, they are now on equal footing with South Sydney in Canberra.

That means the Broncos, Bunnies and Raiders can only afford two more losses or their season will be over.

But while the Rabbitohs have been roundly beaten (culminating in Demetriou’s sacking) and Ricky Stuart’s Raiders have fared little better, the Broncos have so far escaped the same criticism.

You would expect that to change on Saturday night when the Broncos take to the field at Suncorp for their crucial clash with the reborn Dragons.

Even allowing for the Broncos to be without their Origin stars, another defeat in Brisbane could see all hell break loose.

With the top eight last year earning 32 league points, this means the Broncos (currently on 18 points) need to win six of their remaining eight games to secure their place in the finals.

After this round they will face the Knights, Bulldogs, Titans, Cowboys, Bye, Eels, Dolphins and Storm.

“Do you think Billy is upset?” | 02:03

There are every excuse in the world for Adam Reynolds’ prolonged absence this year.

But look at how clubs like the Panthers and Storm have managed to maintain their positions at the top of the table without any big names dropping out for large parts of the season.

Is Reynolds more important to the Broncos than Nathan Cleary to the Panthers, or Cameron Munster to the Storm?

That is clearly true, but the question why is the key.

Cooper Cronk recently pointed out that the Broncos have fallen into so many bad habits that it would be unreasonable to think that Reynolds’ expected return in round 22 will solve all of their problems.

Cronk gave examples of poor completion percentages, poor defense and players who “expected talent to carry them over the line” before their downfall.

Looking at Fox Sports Stats, the Broncos rank 16th in passes completed, as well as 16th in run meters allowed and offloads allowed. They also have the most missed tackles.

There is no doubt that the Broncos improved significantly from the hard-fought revenge match of the previous round.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that it was their fifth straight loss, and it puts them in a precarious position with the end of the regular season still not in sight.

There is no doubt that Walters has done a tremendous job in rebuilding the club after the failed experiment with Anthony Seibold.

The Broncos finished 14th in Walters’ first season in 2021, followed by a 9th-place finish in 2022 and a 2nd-place finish last year.

But one season in four of really good performance isn’t enough for a top club with all the resources the Broncos have at their disposal.

We also saw with Arthur’s sacking at Parramatta that a finals finish is no guarantee of long-term stability in the cutthroat world of NRL coaching.

Arthur led the Eels to the deciding match in 2022, but lost his job less than a season and a half later.

Walters could find himself in a nearly identical situation if the Broncos opt out this year.

While it certainly shouldn’t cost him his job in the short term, it would mean he will be the coach under the most pressure next year.

Of course, it is not too late to turn the tide.

But it has to start against the Dragons.

Is Ryles under pressure yet? | 02:16


You can’t help but feel sorry for Nicho Hynes.

When news broke on Monday that the Sharks playmaker could be sidelined for a while, most thought it would do him good after all the pressure he has been under.

But confirmation that Hynes suffered a broken leg and a complete syndesmosis tear after rolling on his ankle while catching a ball in training, and that he will be sidelined for at least two months, is about the worst thing that could happen to the Sharks.

The Sharks, who are in fourth place, have lost five of their last six games and given their recent form you can’t be sure that

You can’t help but feel sorry for Nicho Hynes, Crawley writes.Source: Getty Images

Dent predicted they would beat the last-placed Wests Tigers on Friday night.


The man under the most pressure ahead of the deciding State of Origin match at Suncorp Stadium next Wednesday night is referee Ashley Klein.

Klein embarrassed himself with the way he changed his interpretation of what was acceptable and what was not between the first and second games.

Now there is talk of a possible denouement to the Origin decision, with the Blues threatening not to give up after what happened to Matt Burton in 2022 when Dane Gagai smashed portholes into Burton.

But can you imagine what the Suncorp crowd will do if there really is a riot and one of the Queenslanders ends up in jail or is sent off after what the Blues were allowed to do in Melbourne?

You get the feeling we’ll be talking about this Origin decider for decades to come.