There was even time for a smile at Bennett’s unveiling. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
There was even time for a smile at Bennett’s unveiling. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Kent: Fresh start for Bennett’s legacy

Many years back Wayne Bennett was at war with the local rugby league reporter, Steve Ricketts, who it must be said did quite an admirable job under somewhat trying circumstances.

It is not easy being the only rugby league reporter on a newspaper where the only coach in town won't talk to you.

Bennett had unique powers as the head coach of the only show in town and understood them fully. All the power was with him as Ricketts, as honest as they come, went to work each day with the unusual pressure of knowing he had a blank page on the back of his newspaper that needed to be filled and a coach that would not answer his questions.

One day Ricketts thought enough already, that it was all fairly juvenile, and approached Bennett for a truce. Bennett knocked him back.

"I think we've been down too many dry gulches together," Bennett said.

Before it finally got resolved they didn't speak for another year.

The NRL is littered with dry gulches. More are being excavated as we speak.

Before Tuesday's press conference began reporters were told that Bennett, shovel in hand, had warned he would not talk about Brisbane and that if a question about the Broncos got raised he would stand and walk out.

 

The assembled Sydney media got the best of the new coach. (Phil Hillyard)
The assembled Sydney media got the best of the new coach. (Phil Hillyard)

 

You can't blame Bennett for having an honest crack as much as you can't blame reporters for ignoring the request. It is the only story in town at the moment, so reporters have the right to ask the question as much as Bennett has the right not to answer it.

But memory comes with a rose-coloured tint. Bennett seems to understand that as much as anybody.

And so Bennett walked in and behaved exactly as Souths hierarchy and Rabbitohs fans would have hoped. He smiled and charmed and worked had for the cameras, aware history is still being written.

 

After all the drama, there is a chance for something new at Redfern. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
After all the drama, there is a chance for something new at Redfern. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

 

Legacy is important to Bennett. At the height of the speculation earlier this season about Brisbane's interest in Craig Bellamy amid news Bennett was on the way out, which came as a surprise to him at the time, Bennett complained to some reporters that they were "destroying his legacy".

It seemed an odd admission at the time because Bennett always indicated he did not care much for legacy or what others might think of him, often acting accordingly.

 

It was entirely different to Bennett’s last days in Brisbane. (Annette Dew)
It was entirely different to Bennett’s last days in Brisbane. (Annette Dew)

 

For many months after that it was almost like he decided to tear down his reputation all on his own, brick by brick. He has not acted alone, to be sure.

Few within this whole saga have covered themselves in glory.

On Tuesday, though, seemed about new beginnings. Bennett has done enough in the game and intends to do enough in the next few seasons to see a fresh rosy tint wash over the past 12 months.

There is more than enough time.

The more time we have the more we remember the highlights.

So many backroom conversations have been held throughout Bennett's downfall at Brisbane that the whole truth will never come out. There will be parts of truth and versions of truth, some of which will not marry up.

Bennett knows as much.

 

New colours, a new opportunity. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
New colours, a new opportunity. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

 

"There's a lot of stuff going on behind the scenes which I was never privy to," he said.

"I'm pleased to be here and I'm pleased that I came here on my own terms, in that I didn't have to leave the Broncos, I was sacked … I've got a free conscience.

"But it was never at my instigation. I am pleased I came here on my terms."

Asked if there was anything he wanted to refute in Anthony Seibold's heavy claims on Sunday that ultimately led to Bennett's sacking - that he was talking to Souths players and that he had a hand in Souths' off-season training, among them - he declined.

"All good."

He confirmed he spoke to Alex Johnston and Damien Cook.

He was happy to be sacked because it allowed him to keep his conscience clear. Already he has forgotten his own part in how ugly it got.

"I made it easy for them last time. I'm not doing it for them this time," he warned in August, and he didn't.

Already, though, the rose tint is blowing in, so much that on Tuesday he was "happy to be sacked".

 

Wayne Bennett with some of the Souths stars at training. (Phil Hillyard)
Wayne Bennett with some of the Souths stars at training. (Phil Hillyard)

 

"It was important to me," he said.

"I have been a team member all my life, I live team, I talk team and some of my team were being isolated and cut out.

"I couldn't walk out on them."

It is part of the story, an insignificant part that over time will be forgotten like much of the past 12 months, with all its ugly backroom negotiations and misleading agendas.

Bennett will never be forgiven in some places.

Too many dry gulches.

But, if we know anything, we know there is more than enough time everywhere else.

 

Every Test, ODI & T20I live, ad-break free during play and in 4K. Only on Foxtel. SIGN UP TODAY!

News Corp Australia


Push for lung specialists to fight a common killer cancer on Coast

premium_icon Push for lung specialists to fight a common killer cancer on...

Our top doctors hope to attract respiratory specialists

Bay pageant hopeful's message:'real beauty is on the inside'

premium_icon Bay pageant hopeful's message:'real beauty is on the inside'

The 13-year-old Point Vernon local is a national grand finalist

‘Babies are dying’: Leaked report reveals bush crisis

premium_icon ‘Babies are dying’: Leaked report reveals bush crisis

Shocking confidential report reveals tragic maternity crisis