How master puppeteer Bennett pulled all the right strings
Forget Masterchef. Mastercoach was the only show in Brisbane last week.
They don't call Wayne Bennett the best coach in the game for nothing and in every respect he showed us all why after the first round loss to St George Illawarra.
It was one of his best weeks where he pulled all the right strings.
The Broncos were terrible against the Dragons, but as a coach all you can do is find a way to get them to respond and turn it all around and he found a way.
I was so impressed with the players against the North Queensland Cowboys and, forget the goal post, they were the best team on the night.
Wayne wasn't happy with the performance against the Dragons and he gave it to them, but he wasn't going to give the media the ammunition to hammer the players and did a good job of protecting the team. The critics, and I was one of them, were hammering the team and I think rightly so because they needed a kick up the butt, but he deflected that heat and took the brunt of it.
I don't think people should get too outraged by what Wayne says at press conferences in one respect. They have always been a bit like theatre for him, but everything he says is for a reason.
He took the blame for playing Sam Thaiday at hooker and then was evasive about whether he gave the boys a spray or not during the week. I've been told he kicked the cameras off the sideline at training and that was another message to the players, that he had their back.
I had to laugh about him saying "you'll never divide us" at his post-match press conference.
At the Broncos it was originally us against the NSW Rugby League. Then it became the Broncos versus the media. It's always us against someone and it's a mentality that funnily enough works.
Now there is almost an element, and I've got to deal with it, of the current Broncos versus the Old Boys Broncos.
I think Wayne respects criticism when it is honestly given for the right reasons. I only talk about what I see and the performance the first week was terrible, and in last week's column I called it like that.
I got a text from Alfie Langer and he said "don't bag a wounded Bronco", and I replied "I call it like I see it". We have a bit of banter between us, half serious and half not.
Wayne made a big call with what he said publicly about the belief he had in young Tevita Pangai Jnr. Wayne brought him into the starting lineup this year and against the Cowboys he repaid the faith.
I thought he was the man of the match. He scored a try, nearly scored another one, saved a try at the end and was aggressive all night. We needed an enforcer, and he was the enforcer.
Wayne is good at showing faith in you and then rewarding you. He sticks by his word and you want to play for him.
It doesn't matter whether you are Allan Langer or Ricky Stuart, you can't fire as a half unless the forwards are being aggressive and making ground. Anthony Milford and Kodi Nikorima took advantage of that and had outstanding games.
The other night when Jimmy Roberts set up a try the cameras were on him and what he said to the boys was Wayne to a tee. He kept saying "boys, it's simple. It's simple". That is what Wayne used to explain to us, that it is not a hard game, and he's sending the same message to these players.
Wayne's only focus is the playing group, but he's in charge. He even ends all his texts to me with "Coach".
After the win over the Cowboys I sent Wayne a text and all I said was "that's better". He replied "much better. Now we can get on with the season. Coach".