News this week that Wayne Bennett was contemplating an offer to coach the England Rugby League team came as a bit of a surprise to most. The RFL has long held an outdated view that England should be coached by someone who was based in the UK, something that has had a devastating effect on generations of English test players who have suffered countless losses thanks to poor management and coaching over the last few decades.
Many people asked me this week what effect I think Bennett would have on the English team, so I thought it was about time I get my thoughts in writing!
For starters, I don’t see Wayne Bennett submitting to absolutely ridiculous ideas such as preparing for the hard slog of an October/November series in the UK by taking the English team to a luxury resort in South Africa under the guise of “Altitude training”. I still can’t believe anyone thought it was a good idea for England to leave England ahead of the 2013 World Cup to go on safari and stuff up altitude training by having a camp that was way too short to have any effect at all.
Those sort of mickey mouse tactics heading into a series will not happen under Bennett. That should be less of a detraction to the English squad, and that can only be a good thing for their focus.
Another thing I expect to see Wayne Bennett avoid is the ridiculous chest thumping, back slapping, over the top rubbish about national pride, and the almost pathological hatred of decades worth of Australian success that pretty much every single English coach has carried on with in my lifetime. This isn’t a Disney movie, this isn’t the Might Ducks, what England needs isn’t some teary eyed speech about how England has failed for 40+ years because of Bill Harrigan. They need a real coach, someone who can give them a game-plan they can be confident about and someone who has the technical knowledge of the game to adjust their tactics to get the best out of the players he has in front of him.
Bennett will bring tactics to England that they simply have not been using. Modern Rugby League training and in-game management. At the very least, England would no longer go into test matches under prepared and out coached. That is not to say that Bennett will be a magic bullet at test level. His last stint as Australian coach ended in utter humiliation and while many give him all the credit for New Zealand’s 2008 World Cup victory, the Kiwi’s subsequent success after he left his role as their assistant coach points to the fact that he was probably just in the right place at the right time.
Wayne Bennett is a good coach but he won’t be able to turn out miracles. He will cost a lot of money to bring on board and chances are he won’t be in the role for too long. Is he the right man to coach England? I have to say, he is far, far, far better than any of the alternatives that might take up the role from a Super League club.
As an Australian, I have no problems at all with Bennett coaching England. It is 2016, and I couldn’t give a stuff where a coach comes from. If he is the best man for the job, make him a good offer and get him on board.
I have to say, I will miss the unintentional comedy supplied by the long list of outmatched English coaches we have seen in the role over the years. If Wayne Bennett ends of as Englands next coach, all I’ll be left to enjoy is the sweet taste of victory when Australia beats them at home, and away, and on neutral soil anyway. 😀