There’s no argument Wayne Bennett is the doyen of rugby league coaches with seven premierships – six with the Broncos, and one with the Dragons.
But rugby league only recognises players for the Hall of Fame and Immortals, while the VFL/AFL covers all aspects of their code with players, coaches, umpires, administration and the media.
It’s time for rugby league to widen its horizons.
At the weekend Bennett coached his 810th NRL game, his first with South Sydney, knocking off the reigning premier Roosters.
That was his 503rd win for a success rate of 62 per cent, but there’s far more in store for the 69-year-young Bennett who was born in Allora on the Darling Downs, 158 kilometres south-west of Brisbane, with a population of less than 1000.
The rugby league world has become his oyster.
There are two other noteworthy NRL coaches in Jack Gibson and Tim Sheens, both of whom also deserve official recognition.
The late great Gibson won five premierships – two with the Roosters, and three with Parramatta – in a career spanning 394 games for 245 wins and a 62 per cent success rate.
While Sheens won four premierships – three with the Raiders, and one with Wests Tigers – in 671 NRL games for 340 wins, and 51 per cent.
When the NRL eventually follow the VFL/AFL format, Bill Harrigan tops the referee contenders, Peter Moore, Ken Arthurson, John Quayle and David Gallop the administrators, with Tom Goodman and Alan Clarkson (Sydney Morning Herald), Ernie Christensen (Sun), Rex Mossop (Channel Seven), Ron Casey and Ray Warren (Channel Nine), with Frank Hyde (2SM), and Tiger Black (2KY) the leading radio callers before television.
All of them have played major roles in rugby league’s history, and none of them have ever been inducted into the Hall of Fame or been made Immortals.
To date rugby league, that kicked off in 1908, has 106 Hall of Famers, and 13 Immortals – all players.
But the VFL that started in 1896 to become the AFL in 1990, boast 257 Hall of Famers, 28 Legends, 14 coaches, 14 umpires, 15 administrators, and nine from the media.
The best example to compare with Wayne Bennett is Jock McHale.
During his extraordinary career exclusively with Collingwood from 1903 to 1949, he won a premiership as a player in 1910, and eight premierships as a coach during his 714 games for 467 wins, and 65 per cent.
McHale is not only a Hall of Famer, but a Legend, the code’s equivalent of league’s Immortals.
So too are coaches Mick Malthouse with 718 games for 406 wins and 57 per cent, including two flags, and Kevin Sheedy with 678 games, 389 wins, 57 per cent, and four premierships.
Wayne Bennett deserves the same recognition.