Knights to bring down Bennett era?
Wayne Bennett might be Tinkler's big name choice but he'll also be under plenty of pressure
Wayne Bennett hasn’t made many blunders in his phenomenal coaching career – he has seven premiership titles to illustrate his exceptional judgement.
But in choosing to bed down with the Newcastle Knights for five years, the master mentor may have tripped himself up big time and placed his world famous reputation in jeopardy.
The Knights have been, at best, ordinary all season and last week against the Gold Coast Titans, they embarrassed their fans and the great man, himself.
Saturday night coughed up a lamentable home loss to the Titans. It was Newcastle’s third straight defeat, leaving them 11th on the table with only four wins from 11 games.
Granted, teams can struggle to conform to an incoming coach’s concepts, playing patterns and man management style, but these Knights don’t seem to be conforming at all.
They are devoid of attacking imagination, their defence can crumble alarmingly for no apparent reason and the passion that was once the trademark of any player who wore the blue and red jumper, looks to be a relic of eras long gone.
Sure, Newcastle has had a few setbacks with injuries to key personnel but there was enough class and quality assembled to put on a far better show than we saw last weekend.
Three of the club’s major signings – Darius Boyd, Kade Snowden and Timana Tahu – weren’t sighted off Nobbys in the 14-24 loss. Where was the two-try Boyd we saw and admired a few nights earlier in Origin 1?
The grunt and grind was pretty much left up to new recruit Willie Mason, a veteran who at least demonstrated heart and pride in the Knights playing strip.
The proud Novocastrian fan-base clearly loathes what is being served up. There were boos and jeers before, during and after that Titans game and crowd figures for home appearances are starting to wane.
Could Bennett, himself, be on the wane? Is he losing his Midas touch? Maybe.
He has been at the coaching caper since 1976 and his old school methods might not be suited to this modern generation of footballers.
Bennett was a guru, a god, of rugby league in Queensland and he had fantastic material to work with throughout his two decades at the Broncos.
With lesser quality, he was just as effective when he switched to St George Illawarra and collected another premiership. They dubbed him Saint Benny there, and Dragons fans are traditionally very hard markers.
Like many league followers, I was keen to see what Bennett could achieve with this club which represents a great, grassroots rugby league city, but I worry that he isn’t commanding the player respect he has enjoyed at previous venues.
He is talking but they are not listening.
As a team, the Knights aren’t putting in on a weekly basis. A few individuals are trying hard but not all of them in unison.
Schoolboy errors are hurting Newcastle badly. Poor discipline in possession and a penchant for conceding penalties has become a very concerning norm.
Point-scoring has become a serious problem. Newcastle teams have rarely had trouble crossing the try-line since the club won NRL status in 1988.
To be frank, the team performed better last year under local man Rick Stone and finished in the top eight.
How long will the club’s major benefactor, Nathan Tinkler, tolerate such mediocrity? He doesn’t suffer fools, he punts them out the door.
Perhaps there is time for Newcastle to turn things around and rise to a respectable position on the 2012 NRL ladder but can anyone see the Knights win anything but the toss in the weeks ahead?
Coach Bennett remains patient and loyal with his player roster and keeps assuring supporters there are good times ahead.
He has put his world famous reputation on the line but I fear it is in danger of getting trampled.