Graham and Eve Harwood from Thornton got more than a birds-eye view of Newcastle’s Monday Night Football win over Cronulla.
They got an up-close look at the enigma that is Wayne Bennett.
While the Knights coach again failed to appear on Fox Sports television screens last night in the lead-up to the 26-4 victory at Hunter Stadium as the jockeying surrounding new NRL media guidelines continues, the seven-time premiership-winning coach invited the two retirees to share his box throughout the game.
Bennett – who was fined two weeks ago for declining an interview request with Fox and only made himself available yesterday at a time which was unsuitable for the broadcaster – chatted amicably to the 'Knights Insider' contest winners as the vital game kicked off.
“Actually, it was Wayne’s idea,” Eve told NRL.com when asked about the contest.
“We have met him before. We met him at the meet-and-greet at the beginning of the season.”
Graham Harwood added: “As soon as the game started, he came in and said hello and whatever. He was a gentleman.”
Graham said the most surprising aspect of the experience was how calm Bennett and his coaching staff were during the crushing, powerful win.
“I was observing how they control the match from up there,” he said.
“The calmness of them most of the time... it was keeping an eye on the play-the-balls and seeing where they were making their moves through the opposition and things like that.
“He was more or less calling down to Rick (Stone, assistant) to pass the message down to the players.
“(At halftime) we stayed up there.”
Standing next to her husband in the stadium tunnel as they waited to see Bennett again, Eve chimed in: “It gives you a different perspective on how they see the game – from where we normally sit.”
Bennett told the post-match media conference that he was somewhat surprised the Knights were still in the finals race so late in the regular season.
The NRL has introduced a raft of new media guidelines over the past month and clubs are conducting weekly media sessions and making allowances for newspaper reporters on deadline by granting priority dressing room access, among other things.
Compelling coaches to speak to the host broadcaster on match day is among the new rules. It’s uncertain if Bennett breached them by only making himself available between 8.30am and 10 yesterday.
But Graham Thornton finds it hard to believe the super coach would do the wrong thing.
“He was perfectly natural – I would say it was a misunderstanding,” he said.
“It’s just something that happened, that’s all...”