Sharp focus on game, not milestone

Published 11:30am 5 May 2023

Sharp focus on game, not milestone
Words by Kylie Knight

The NRL may be celebrating Wayne Bennett’s 900th game as a first-grade coach, but the man himself is not keen to talk about his achievements or the milestone.

He’d much prefer to talk about his team and their game against the Sharks tomorrow during Magic Round at Suncorp Stadium (5.30pm kick off).

When asked about the milestone after training today, he said he’d actually coached more than 1000 games if his time in the BRL was included in the tally.

So, did he have ambitions to coach in the New South Wales Rugby League way back then?

“I never thought about being a coach. It’s not something that I kind of wanted to do and I’m still not sure if I want to be a coach,” he said.

“I never had a plan about my coaching life and my coaching career. I just found myself doing it and that’s what I’m still doing today.”

He says he has no idea what has kept him in the job.

When pressed further about the milestone, he bristled.

“We either change the subject or I just move on. I’m not talking about my achievements, or what I have done or haven’t done,” he said.

Bennett is keen to see Valynce Te Whare run out for the Dolphins on Saturday, with Brenko Lee ruled out with a hamstring injury.

“He’s a bit of a good story. He’s one of the first players that we signed here. Peter O’Sullivan saw him play in New Zealand, playing rugby … he was in the schoolboys over there. We rang him up and talked to him on Zoom and over he came,” Bennett says.

“To his credit, he’s worked really hard and had to make a pretty big adaption from rugby to rugby league. We’ve invested a lot of time in him and it’s worked out for both parties. I’m pleased for him and look forward to watching him play.”

It’s a huge achievement with last year Te Whare’s first in the game.

As for his name, Bennett says he’s known as ‘Val Smith’ around the club to keep it simple.

What about Val Meninga?

“I coached Mal, he’s a great player, great guy. The only similarity was the shorts. I reckon they’re about the same size,” Bennett said smiling.

“He’s no Mal Meninga. I can tell you that much.”

Captain Jesse Bromwich has been ruled out for tomorrow’s game with a hamstring injury suffered at training on Wednesday. He will be replaced by Poasa Faamausili.

“It is a bit of a loss but that’s footy … no Stone … he’s been wonderful for us. The other players are there ready to take over and do their best for us,”

“(Bromwich’s injury) is not serious. He’ll miss this week and with a bye next week, he’ll be back.”

Photos from training (click-through)

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