Wayne Bennett has officially put to bed the coaching rumours swirling around rugby league land, revealing why leaving South Sydney is not an option for the supercoach.
Wayne Bennett has revealed the dream that is driving him to stay on coaching South Sydney is this simple: “I want to win a comp”.
And Bennett knows the best chance of doing that is at the Rabbitohs — not link with any rival clubs mentioned as possible destinations for next year, including Canterbury or a return to St George Illawarra.
Ahead of Thursday’s huge clash with Penrith — who snubbed Bennett to employ Ivan Cleary — the Bunnies supercoach also opened up about why his old school methods still work in the modern game.
One of the big criticisms of Bennett’s coaching these days is that his game plans are apparently so behind the times that the finer details could be written on the back of someone’s thumb.
But in an exclusive interview, Bennett explained why over-coaching such natural talents as Adam Reynolds, Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell would just be a waste of his time, and their talent.
“Football is not a science. It’s an art,” Bennett said. “The difference with a science is that it is perfection. The difference with an art is that there is a lot of flexibility.”
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‘I WANT TO WIN A COMP’
The seven-time premiership winning coach is not off contract at Redfern until the end of 2021. At that point he has agreed to hand over the top job at Souths to now assistant Jason Demetriou.
But given a number of rival clubs are considering changing coaches this year, the speculation about Bennett’s future just won’t rest. The theory is that Bennett’s best chance of getting a longer deal would be to bail out this year.
“What do I want to do? What is the most important thing to me right now in my coaching career?” Bennett asked.
“I want to win a comp. If I was just going through the motions that is what I would do (leave). But I want to win a premiership. Souths are my best chance of doing that.”
Bennett, 70, doesn’t hide from the fact at his age this will probably will be his final chance to add to his premiership tally.
“I have been 12 months here and it is a talented footy team,” he said. “If we all put it together we can do it. I know we can.”
Bennett has also built a close bond with the Rabbitohs players, which is a major reason he is sick of the constant speculation about his future.
That bond was put on show again last weekend when he clashed with the media over his stance to keep private what had star fullback Mitchell in tears after the win over the Warriors.
Earlier this year Bennett also wore the wrath of the NRL when Souths were fined $20,000 because Bennett did not report an off-field incident involving Walker to the integrity unit.
Bennett makes no apologies for putting his players first.
Bennett has previously indicated he wants to continue coaching for as long as he is in good enough health to do so.
He even jokes “when I feel 70 I might have to give it up”.
He still runs and does weights every second day. But personal family circumstances might be what determines if he coaches beyond this current contract.
Bennett made a rare public admission this week that the care of his disabled son Justin was the reason he would not even entertain the thought of going to the Warriors.
Bennett hates talking about his family, so to even mention it indicated why it will be a huge factor if he keeps coaching beyond Souths.
THE ART OF COACHING
By his own admission, Bennett’s coaching is old school.
But in the most cutthroat job in Australian sport — NRL coach — it has kept him employed constantly since 1976. That’s 44 straight years, and counting.
And Bennett’s winning record throughout that entire period remains around 64 per cent.
Since joining the national competition in 1987 he has coached in nine grand finals and 25 finals series.
His success is also a major reason why the oldest coach in first-grade rugby league history remains one of the most wanted men, at an age when most men have long retired.
Bennett offered a rare insight into how he thinks as a coach: “The one common denominator for me is that I do not do things that do not work.
“And if I’ve done it and it doesn’t work it is gone that quick out of my coaching repertoire it doesn’t matter.
“Because at the end of the day you are judged on your results.
“And if you are working on a system that doesn’t work and you are sticking to it because it is your idea and you want to be different and unique and all that type of stuff, well, fine.
“But it is not going to keep your job. And it is not going to give you the footy team you want.”
He offered this example: “I have two of the brightest players I have coached in a long time in Adam Reynolds and Cody Walker, smart as on the footy field.
“So they don’t need me to give them a great game plan. They need me to give them some guidelines.
“Out there they have got half a second to make a decision. And they instinctively do that.
“So why am I going to give them a complex game plan about how I perceive the game should be played.
“I do trust them because they know the game. So why complicate it for them?
“Cody Walker’s try the other night (against the Warriors) came from the time he could walk until the time he left Casino (his home town) playing football with his mates in the backyard.
“Latrell Mitchell, you see the things he does. I couldn’t coach what that guy does. Trent Robinson didn’t coach it either. But I will tell you where it was coached, at Taree. Every afternoon, after school.
“Some coaches make it about game plans. My skill is about getting you in shape, upskilling and making the joint happy … give them trust and belief, in themselves and the team.
“That’s how I coach.”