If you want a coach to come into your struggling club and make them a finals team, Wayne Bennett is your man. Bennett has an amazing ability to instill a sense of confidence in a playing group, no matter what level they play at, and can take an OK set of players and turn them into a finals team.
Is Wayne Bennett the coach you want to take your finals team that next step and win a Grand Final? Hmm, I’m not so sure about that.
With the Broncos Wayne Bennett won it all. His record speaks for itself. He had some really good teams to work with, that had some of the greatest players of all time, and he got the job done. Can’t argue with that.
His move to the Dragons was huge, and he brought Premiership success to a club that had a reputation for choking. Thing is, the Dragons were a pretty bloody good team before he got there. Bennett was brought in to put the finishing touches on the Dragons team, and he did a great job of that.
Bennett then moved to the Knights, and this is where things started to look a little off. He built a team to “win now” and to be fair he took a terrible team and turned them into a finals team. The Knights then fell apart very quickly at all levels, Bennett left (Which was a good move) and the mess left behind really hurt Bennett’s reputation more than anyone else who helped create the mess in Newcastle.
Bennett went back to the Broncos and everything was supposed to be fine again…but it kinda wasn’t. The Broncos played pretty well, but just could never take that next step. Players Bennett committed to never really kicked on. You could never accuse a Wayne Bennett coached side of not playing hard, of not giving their all, but in his second stint at the Broncos you could say that at no time did it look like the Broncos would capture that edge you need to win a Premiership.
It felt like the powers that be at the Broncos, who are always under pressure to deliver, started to question whether Bennett could take the club that next step. It was very clear that Bennett didn’t like that, not one bit.
Keep in mind that NRL coaches are headstrong people, whether they are good coaches or not. Think of the job! You believe you can go in to a group of footballers, tell them how to play better, tell them what to do, tell them you know the game better than they do, and these days you’re running so many aspects of a club, everyone has to buy in to your ideas. Every single coach has THE grand plan to win a premiership, just ask them! That is who they are. So I would expect no less of Wayne Bennett, especially when he has the runs on the board.
The problem is, sport is very much a “What have you done for me lately?” industry, and at a club like the Broncos that has shareholders, when you’re not performing at the very highest level your performance is going to be under the spotlight.
Bennett handled this part of the job very poorly. Petulant is the way I would describe it. Bennett openly criticized club management. He did it via the media, another group who he showed open disdain for during this whole process and whom he blamed for creating drama. He would have been able to do all of this if the Broncos results were better. As it turns out, the Broncos just looked slightly above average all season. That meant that Bennett’s time was up at the Broncos.
Now Bennett is on the open market, and there have been media reports that he is looking at moving to the Wests Tigers. You’re not seeing that mad scramble for his services we have seen in the past though. It now looks like a very different landscape for Bennett compared to the first time he left the Broncos.
Where once teams would have rolled out the red carpet for him, now it feels like Wayne will take what he can get. How that must feel to a coach as accomplished as Bennett is anyone’s guess.