Speculation is rife that Wayne Bennett has coached his last game at the Newcastle Knights. There is talk he will be coaching the North Queensland Cowboys next season, and even suggestions he will be back at the Brisbane Broncos in 2014. It is all speculation Bennett has refused to deny.
So if Wayne Bennett does leave the Newcastle Knights, can we say it is a job well done? Will we be able to look back at the Wayne Bennett era in Newcastle and say he was worth his massive salary?
Nobody expect the Newcastle Knights to get as far as they did this season under the coaching of Wayne Bennett. Despite their comprehensive loss to the Sydney Roosters on Saturday night, the Knights season exceeded all expectations.
The Knights are a side that has been built to win now. They have unashamedly targeted veteran players to bolster their lineup and in the end all of that extra experience in their sided probably went a long way towards their NRL Finals charge.
While most clubs look to get younger, the Knights have had no problems getting older. Their major recruitment moves heading into the 2014 season have been for players who have, at best, one or two seasons left in them. It doesn’t leave a huge window for the club to win a premiership in before it needs to rebuild.
The Knights regular season performance in 2013 was reasonable at best. Their run through the finals was stunning and changes how anyone would look at their overall season performance. Had the Knights lost in round one of the finals series I dare say that many would be questioning the Knights season, the coach, their recruitment and their future as a premiership threat.
If Wayne Bennett stays on at the Knights, none of this really matters all that much. He will be coaching the side he built. If he leaves now though he leaves behind a club that has maybe one of two season left in them before needs a rebuild the likes of which we have rarely ever seen in the NRL.
Is that a fair thing for Bennett to do? Sure he can leave if he wants to, but having been brought into the Newcastle Knights clubs to do a job on a huge salary, you’d expect that he would leave the club in better shape than when he arrived.
When Wayne Bennett left the Brisbane Broncos, he left a side that wasn’t exactly on the up. When he left the St George/Illawarra Dragons he left a side that was decimated and still struggling to overcome the Wayne Bennett era. If he leaves the Newcastle Knights now the incumbent coach will be left with many years worth of rebuilding ahead of them, to the point where the next Knights coach probably won’t be around to see the fruits of his labor anyway.
With that in mind, if Wayne Bennett leaves the Knights and is coaching someone else next season, has he been worth it? Has the Wayne Bennett era been a success?
Today that is an interesting question to answer. In a few years time when most of the current squad has retired, it might be a far easier question for people to answer.
A well known Rugby League writer, League Freak has established a reputation among supporters of the game for his fearless commentary and unmatched insight. With a reach that spans both sides of the globe, League Freak has produced an independent network that allows him to distribute content to his many thousands of followers. He is the owner and main author of LeagueFreak.com