Has Wayne Bennett lost his aura?

Mary Konstantopoulos Columnist

By Mary Konstantopoulos, Mary Konstantopoulos is a Roar Expert

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    Suggesting Wayne Bennett has lost his aura always makes me laugh, but there has been some weird stuff to come out of the Broncos in the last week.

    Let’s be clear: Bennett will be remembered as one of rugby league’s greatest mentors.

    He has been head coach of Australia, the English national team (the first non-English coach to be in that position), Queensland, St George Illawarra Dragons, the Newcastle Knights and most famously the Brisbane Broncos. He holds the record for the most grand final wins and also the most seasons with a single club.

    Not only has he been successful on the field, but there are countless stories about the special bonds he forms with his players.

    The one I always think of first is his relationship with Darius Boyd – a player who we have watched follow Bennett from club to club and who has essentially grown up in the media spotlight, with Bennett there to help guide him through it.

    But the Broncos have had a tough start to season 2018. They currently sit 11th on the NRL ladder with four points after starting their season 2-3.

    On Saturday night they lost to a spirited Newcastle Knights outfit 15-10 and were, quite simply, outplayed.

    Then there’s the situation with Sam Thaiday.

    Sam Thaiday Brisbane Broncos NRL Rugby League 2017 tall

    Sam Thaiday (Photo by Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images)

    It started last week, at a press conference, when Bennett assured the media that Thaiday would remain in his top 17 for the remainder of the year.

    “We didn’t give him another year so he could play in the state comp with Norths or anyone,” Bennett said, in response to Chris Walker having suggested that Thaiday should retire immediately rather than playing out the final year of his contract.

    But is the choice that simple?

    Bennett has tapped countless Broncos on the shoulder during their career, like Justin Hodges and Corey Parker.

    It is a difficult decision for any player to make, but it is better to leave fans thinking you could potentially have done another season, rather than holding on to your career too long.

    But when Hodges and Parker were tapped, it ended amicably. Is Thaiday the same sort of player?

    This is a man who reacted vehemently to being dropped from the Maroons and Kangaroos last year. Instead of blaming his own dip in form, he chose to blame (loudly, on social media and through his various media commitments) the coaches and the people around him. Thaiday acted like he was entitled to representative jerseys, rather than that they need to be earnt.

    Would Thaiday react in a similar way if dropped the Broncos? Potentially, especially considering that he is on the cusp of reaching 300 games this season.

    The hope for Brisbane fans must be that Thaiday makes it easy and that his form picks up as the season progresses.

    You would hope that his on-field performances are what he is focusing on too, particularly after telling the media shortly after the conclusion of Saturday night’s game that it “wasn’t about winning for us”. Bennett confirmed this shortly after, that the game was a big step forward for his team.

    Interesting comments about a game against a team that has finished with the wooden spoon for the last three years in a row.

    So can the Broncos pick it up or has Wayne lost his aura?

    I’m of the view that the Broncos will sort this out and just scrape into the finals. But they have some work to do.

    Kevin Walters resigned as their attack coach last week, which was probably for the best. Brisbane scored the second-most points in the competition in 2017. They are a far cry from that team this year.

    The squad seems to be running set plays… slowly.

    The ball finds its way into the hands of Kodi Nikorima and Anthony Milford, and the rest of the squad watches them. The other option seems to be getting the ball into the hands of Darius Boyd, but putting him in a position where he has nowhere to move.

    The Broncos look lost in attack and despite forcing seven line dropouts on Saturday, could only come up with two late tries.

    Mistakes are also proving too costly. Against the Knights, Brisbane forced two line breaks early and then received back-to-back penalties, all wasted when Matt Gillett dropped a simple pass just metres from the tryline.

    Moments later, Milford found his way through the defence with his signature sidestep, but instead of passing to one of his support players, the ball slipped through his hands.

    It doesn’t get much easier from here. Next week, the Broncos face the New Zealand Warriors at Mt Smart Stadium, followed by the Melbourne Storm at home.

    Perhaps at the end of these two rounds, we’ll be in a better position to assess whether there are more underlying issues at the club than a lack of confidence on the field.

    Mary Konstantopoulos
    Mary Konstantopoulos

    Mary Konstantopoulos is a lawyer, sports advocate and proud owner and founder of the Ladies Who empire, including Ladies who League, Ladies who Legspin, Ladies who Lineout and Ladies who Leap. You can find her podcast on iTunes and find her on Twitter @mary__kaye and @ladieswholeague.

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    The Crowd Says (131)

    • Roar Guru

      April 9th 2018 @ 7:18am
      Con Scortis said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:18am | ! Report

      Hi Mary A.

      I guess if the ref hadn’t gifted the Tigers game to the Broncos they would be 1 from 5 and looking even worse. I think 1 from 5 is probably a better reflection of how they have been performing, anyway.

      The other thing about Broncos, Cowboys and Storm is that they generally lose a lot of players to Origin and therefore like to have a bundle of wins in the bag moving into the Origin period to negate the possible losses that come from Origin.

      This may be the first year that all three have a negative win ratio going into Origin and that could have a huge bearing on the remainder of their seasons.

      • Columnist

        April 9th 2018 @ 11:06am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 11:06am | ! Report

        Con, what impact do you think the change to the Origin schedule will be on those teams?

        • April 9th 2018 @ 12:18pm
          KingCowboy said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

          Hi Mary, hope all is well. I know you have asked Con but from view point, I think the Cows are going to go really well over that period. Can only see us losing Hess, Morgs and maybe Thumper and Coops. I can’t see the donkeys losing anyone major besides Boyd and the Big Show and maybe Jack Bird and Roberts.

          I can see the Storm really hurting after losing Smith and Slater, which is really going to hurt them. I know I am going to regret saying this but I think the Kiwis could come out of Origin with a bit of a cap over the rest of comp.

          • Columnist

            April 9th 2018 @ 12:30pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:30pm | ! Report

            Hi KC! Great to hear from you – and your view is always welcome. I tend to agree with you – we’ve often had to make excuse for teams like the Broncs and Cowboys during this period, but I don’t think that will be the case this year.

            As for the Warriors, we know they always do well during this period… does that mean they are going to be unstoppable?!

          • April 9th 2018 @ 12:49pm
            Jarryd said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:49pm | ! Report

            I’m not sure the broncs will even lose Boyd. I wouldn’t pick him on current form.

            No excuse for them not to perform during the origin period.

            Melbourne will be decimated as you say. Add Munster, Chambers to Smith and Slater as well as possibly Kafusi, JAC, Glasby. There won’t be much of a team left to pick.

            I think St George will get hit pretty hard also, a few of those blokes JdB, Vaughan should have been selected last year plus smokies like Aitken, Mcinnes, Hunt.

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 1:01pm
          Con Scortis said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:01pm | ! Report

          I agree with KC, except I think the Cows may struggle without Thurston and Morgs. There’s something not quite right there atm.

          • Columnist

            April 9th 2018 @ 1:49pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:49pm | ! Report

            But I don’t think they will struggle because of the Origin period… I think they will continue to struggle this season. 🙁

            • April 9th 2018 @ 2:27pm
              KingCowboy said | April 9th 2018 @ 2:27pm | ! Report

              hmmm can’t agree with you on that one Mary. We were actually not that bad on Saturday night. We were just beaten by a better team. We have a fairly soft draw over the next three weeks. I loved the comments made by Alexander that he thinks JT may have lost it. The guy is coming back from a serious shoulder injury. He will improve, the team will improve and the team will improve.

              I think that will be the case for the Donkeys as well. Bennett has been back for three years and he has gone into the 2nd week of the finals each time. Be patient people. I know we live in a world of Facechat and Snapbook but I think everyone needs to take a deep breath and see how it all plays out.

              • Columnist

                April 9th 2018 @ 2:48pm
                Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 2:48pm | ! Report

                KC, certainly not writing your team off. There are some very talented players in that team.

                My worry is, and it’s my worry with the Eels too, is that I think it is going to be a pretty hotly contested 8 this year. Teams sitting on one win (or in my case 0 wins) need to start moving quickly before the challenge of making the 8 just becomes too big.

              • April 9th 2018 @ 4:30pm
                Albo said | April 9th 2018 @ 4:30pm | ! Report

                I think you might be a tad in denial KC. I know you should never knock a champion, but they can’t go on forever in such a tough sport. Sure JT is coming back from a serious shoulder injury, but the way he has been smashed in possession in recent weeks by the likes of Fisher-Harris and Co, he might soon have two busted shoulders. His play has been ponderous at best, though he has not been helped by his pack being over powered by all opposition sides apart from the Sharks’ equally out of form pack in round 1. But for a couple of kicks for tries, he has not been his dominant self so far this season. And Brandy may be right ? His body must be battered from years of taking it to the line ! Mind over matter can only get you so far. Similarly the Storms’ aging champions are yet to fire this year. It may well be the case that these aging champions might no longer be able to so consistently carry their teams as they have for a decade or so ? Morgan running the show in Townsville might be a better option at present.

              • April 9th 2018 @ 4:59pm
                Griffo said | April 9th 2018 @ 4:59pm | ! Report

                As a Cowboys fan I agree with Morgan running the show and after how he played last season I didn’t want him to take a backwards step. JT is still a very talented player and still sees an opportunity like no otger player but his movement is a lot slower than it used to be which has allowed players to target him and gives players more time to read . On the contrary Michael Morgan is one of the fastest moving players in the league. He is more of a lone threat each and every play because of his speed and strength yet his skills allow him to control the team well at halfback. As for Thurston he would do well playing back at 5/8 where he’s been a Dally M and Golden boot winner. He’d have more time and he could pick and choose when to get involved and deliver a dose of his magic.

      • April 10th 2018 @ 5:31pm
        Sport Predictor AUS said | April 10th 2018 @ 5:31pm | ! Report

        The broncos could even be 0 from 5 if the goalpost didn’t save them against the cowboys

    • Roar Rookie

      April 9th 2018 @ 7:29am
      Don said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:29am | ! Report

      The Broncos can’t cut Thaiday early because his current contract has him being paid half his income via third party sponsorships. If he doesn’t see out the year he doesn’t get paid.
      And the contracts aren’t as lucrative if he isn’t in the firsts.
      Only long term injury gets him still paid.

      And Bennett’s recruitment decisions should be brought in to question.
      When he got to the Broncos the first thing he did was cut Ben Barba because he didn’t see him as a half and already had a fullback in Boyd.
      Then, he bought Milford, basically the same player as Barba and after one great season in 2015, is showing he isn’t a half either.

      They were crying out for some starch in their pack but bought Jack Bird?

      And then we could look at some of the guys they have let go and decided to keep lesser guys…

      • Roar Guru

        April 9th 2018 @ 7:58am
        Emcie said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:58am | ! Report

        Barba was cut the same year they made the GF, not sure that was a massive blunder (not saying barba wasn’t a good player, just that he was not integral to their success). Milford was signed long before Bennett arrived. A lot of the broncos roster issues came from Anthoney Griffin which saw an over abundance of fullbacks and a number of promising juniors let go and a significant weakening of the forward pack (with our best 2nd rowers in Thiaday and Parker forced to play prop)

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 8:11am
          peeeko said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:11am | ! Report

          Barba was there before Boyd but Bennett cleared him and Hoffman to make way for his boy

          • Roar Guru

            April 9th 2018 @ 8:30am
            Emcie said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            Hoffman went to the titans because he wanted to be a fullback not a winger. But there needed to be a cleanout, the roster was all over the place and Griffin had been using some strange line ups with Corey Norman playing at fullback and Barba (who had been down on form since he arrived) in the halves

      • Columnist

        April 9th 2018 @ 11:07am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 11:07am | ! Report

        Don, just on your last sentence… hindsight is a wonderful thing right? I think all clubs can be shown to have made the wrong call when it comes to recruitment several times.

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 11:17am
          BA Sports said | April 9th 2018 @ 11:17am | ! Report

          How good a signing was Justin Poore at your beloved Eels! Played 178 games in the NRL – 50 for Parramatta, and his best 128 games were all for the Dragons… 🙂

          • Columnist

            April 9th 2018 @ 11:21am
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 11:21am | ! Report

            BA Sports… the start to the season has already been bad enough without you bringing this up! 😛

            • April 11th 2018 @ 8:47pm
              Kim said | April 11th 2018 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

              Mary. Loved your article. keep it up.

        • April 10th 2018 @ 4:08pm
          Mushi said | April 10th 2018 @ 4:08pm | ! Report

          If you’re in a game of risk/reward negotiation and have no hindsight failures then you are not actually taking enough risk to succeed.

    • April 9th 2018 @ 7:31am
      Paul said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:31am | ! Report

      Mary,

      Bennett seems to be treated as though he is some sacred cow. You mentioned his record as a coach and there’s no doubting he has amassed a Hall of Fame type career, but his last premiership was 2010 and with the Broncos in 1998. Sure his sides have made the finals may times in between, but for Broncos fans, 20 years between premierships, with a supposed master coach at the helm for a lot of that, is a mighty long time.

      In another article, he was quoted as saying his side has lost confidence and the way they’d get it back was to play back into form. I’m sorry but that sounds to me like a coach who has run out of ideas.

      He has tapped plenty of players on the shoulders as you pointed out and now it’s time for the Broncos to do the same with him. Unlike you, I can’t see them making the finals and even if they did, on current form they’d only be making up the numbers.

      • Roar Rookie

        April 9th 2018 @ 7:43am
        Don said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

        Small error. Bennett’s last Broncos premiership was 2006.

        • April 9th 2018 @ 7:46am
          jimmmy said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

          I think you will find the Broncs won in 2006. Probably the greatest coaching performance in a GF I can remember . Bennett’s tactics were superb.
          Has he lost it. ? Not on the slightest. But other coaches have caught up for sure.

          • April 9th 2018 @ 6:11pm
            RoryStorm said | April 9th 2018 @ 6:11pm | ! Report

            There were some very dubious referees rulings in that game. All in the Broncos favour. Don’t know how you can call it probably the greatest coaching performances in a grand final unless you are a one eyed Bronco’s supporter.

        • April 9th 2018 @ 8:03am
          Paul said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

          Sorry.

      • Roar Guru

        April 9th 2018 @ 7:46am
        Con Scortis said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:46am | ! Report

        Beat me to it Don!

      • Roar Guru

        April 9th 2018 @ 7:47am
        The Barry said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:47am | ! Report

        2000 and 2006…your point still stands though.

      • April 9th 2018 @ 12:51pm
        badger said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:51pm | ! Report

        He also made the Grand Final in 2015 and was 1 minute from winning it.

        • April 9th 2018 @ 1:35pm
          Gray-Hand said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:35pm | ! Report

          1 second from winning it.

          • Roar Guru

            April 9th 2018 @ 2:09pm
            Emcie said | April 9th 2018 @ 2:09pm | ! Report

            -1 second from winning it

    • Roar Guru

      April 9th 2018 @ 7:57am
      The Barry said | April 9th 2018 @ 7:57am | ! Report

      Recruitment is strange.

      There was a lot of hype around Jai Arrow in the last couple of seasons. To be honest I didn’t really see. With hindsight I think that was probably due to his limited minutes. The volume of his work this year has impressed.

      Ese’ese was one of the Broncs best forwards last season.

      I wouldn’t have thought it would break the bank to keep one or both.

      I’ve never seen Bird as a $1M player and certainly not for the Broncos roster.

      It’s a bit early to be writing teams off though. Back to back wins and a team jumps half a dozen places.

      • Roar Guru

        April 9th 2018 @ 8:06am
        Emcie said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:06am | ! Report

        Jia Arrow spent much of last year injured, I think he may have been out for the first 12 rounds and copped another injury late in the season.

        And Bird’s not on $1m, that figure seems to increase the more time goes on, and his signing seemed to be a straight swap for moga (so a great investment even if he spends half the season at weight watchers 🙂 )

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 8:12am
          peeeko said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:12am | ! Report

          true, Bird would be on 750 at most

          • April 9th 2018 @ 10:27am
            Albo said | April 9th 2018 @ 10:27am | ! Report

            Still too much for a utility player. I think he is probably best suited to be an edge backrower, but he thinks he should be a halfback. And Bennett thinks he is a centre. Either way, they have probably paid overs for him, and no matter where he plays, I doubt he will be the catalyst to change their form around.

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 12:42pm
          The Barry said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:42pm | ! Report

          Hi Emcie

          My point with Arrow is that there has been a lot of hype about him from Broncos club and fans for a couple of years. The timing of him being let go seems odd. I thought he was no more than handy but as I said I think it was because he never played big minutes at the Broncs. Surely someone in the Broncs set up knew what he was capable of.

          Bird’s signing was reported as $4M for four years at the time.

          Even if it’s only approaching that sort of coin, it’s a lot of money for anyone outside the spine. Particularly a centre / utility who has 17 tries in 70 games.

          • Roar Guru

            April 9th 2018 @ 1:10pm
            Matt H said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:10pm | ! Report

            The Arrow situation is similar top that of Taylor a few years ago. Taylor was touted as the next big thing and then was suddenly let go to keep the trio of Hunt, Milford and Nikorima.

          • April 9th 2018 @ 1:40pm
            Gray-Hand said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:40pm | ! Report

            It depends on what he was offered by the team that poached him. There is a big difference between undervaluing a good player and not being willing to pay more than they are worth.

            I suspect that Arrow fell into that category along with Hunt.

            • Roar Guru

              April 9th 2018 @ 4:25pm
              The Barry said | April 9th 2018 @ 4:25pm | ! Report

              Fair point…but looking at how he’s playing this year the Broncs may have under estimated how much he’s worth by a fair bit.

              It also comes down to choices. Again, with the benefit of hindsight, the Broncs might have been better off letting Thaiday go to the Coast and re-signing Arrow.

              • April 9th 2018 @ 5:32pm
                Gray-Hand said | April 9th 2018 @ 5:32pm | ! Report

                It’s only 5 games into the season. Nowhere near enough time to tell whether it was a good or bad decision.

          • Roar Guru

            April 9th 2018 @ 2:03pm
            Emcie said | April 9th 2018 @ 2:03pm | ! Report

            90% TPA’s 😉

            The contract has been reported as a lot of things – $2.1m/3yr, $3.6/3yr and Weidlers $4m/4yrs (though Weidlers reports included a heavily backended 4th year option making the first 3 years below $1m). People will believe which ever contract supports their preconceptions but for the most part are complete guesses by newspaper journalists.

            As far as Arrow goes, like you I honestly never considered him to be anything more than handy. He wasn’t a regular starter and his prefered position of lock put him behind Parker and Maguire which meant he just didn’t really have an opportunity to prove himself that much.

      • Columnist

        April 9th 2018 @ 11:54am
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 11:54am | ! Report

        So what you’re saying is that it’s too early to write off the Eels? 😛

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 12:10pm
          The Barry said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

          The Eels are two wins outside the top eight. If there were say eight weeks to go and they were two wins outside the eight, no one would be writing them off so I’m not ready to with 19 weeks to go.

          Having said that they need to complete a huge form turnaround almost immediately.

          The Dogs might have a win on the board but are probably in worse trouble with games against Cowboys (A), Roosters (H), Panthers (A), Broncos (A).

          We play the Eels at home the week after but it’s difficult to see a way the Dogs are not 1-8 heading into that game.

          Jeez – it’s going to be a long season…

          • Columnist

            April 9th 2018 @ 12:18pm
            Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:18pm | ! Report

            TB, you’re telling me…

          • Roar Guru

            April 9th 2018 @ 1:11pm
            Matt H said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:11pm | ! Report

            Yes but on current form the Cowboys and Broncos are not as top shelf as previously.

            • Roar Guru

              April 9th 2018 @ 4:26pm
              The Barry said | April 9th 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

              Maybe…I think both at home have got the Bulldogs covered!

    • Roar Guru

      April 9th 2018 @ 8:04am
      BA Sports said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:04am | ! Report

      19 games to go in the season and Thaiday needs to play 16 of them to make it to 300.

      The you are getting very close to dumping the halfback, which is never good for team continuity
      Your (presumably) highest paid player – Bird – is offering absolutely nothing
      Your adopted son is clearly not 100% fit or not 100% interested.
      And people will be dying to blame your cheapest player – Matt Lodge (who is actually going pretty well)

      Things are going to start getting pretty awkward soon in Brisbane for either Bennett or Paul White. Bennett better start showing why he is talked of as the greatest coach of all time, or he will be the one getting the tap on the shoulder and the end of his illustrious career will not be his decision.

      Side note: Bennett – 794 games; How does game 800 go (at home vs the Roosters) if the Broncos are, say, 3-7 and in the bottom 4 on the ladder?

      • Columnist

        April 9th 2018 @ 12:31pm
        Mary Konstantopoulos said | April 9th 2018 @ 12:31pm | ! Report

        BA Sports, I think fitness is an issue for a couple of players – namely Boyd and Milford…

        • Roar Guru

          April 9th 2018 @ 1:12pm
          Matt H said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:12pm | ! Report

          Bird looks overweight as well. Is it time to give Boyd a few weeks off to try and get him right? Surely he can’t keep on going this way?

          • April 9th 2018 @ 1:43pm
            Gray-Hand said | April 9th 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

            There was an article a week or two ago that said that Bird looks pudgy at the moment because he is wearing a sternum guard. Apparently his skin folds are all fine.

    • Roar Guru

      April 9th 2018 @ 8:13am
      peeeko said | April 9th 2018 @ 8:13am | ! Report

      Thaiday has been blessed. Hes been a good player but he played far more Australian games than he should have due to him being part of the successful Qld inner sanctum.

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