Mysterious letter at heart of Bennett's Broncos stand-off
It is the letter from Broncos chairman Karl Morris to coach Wayne Bennett that has got lost in translation.
When Brisbane CEO Paul White fronted the media on Friday about Bennett's coaching future he was repeatedly asked about written correspondence from Morris to Bennett which offered the veteran coach a senior administrative role at the club in 2020, a role Bennett would have also have input into.
NRL.com understands the letter has been sent to Bennett.
The Broncos CEO would not give a “yes” or “no” answer when asked whether the job offer had been made, and said "there is an agreed position between Wayne and Karl that they are not going to be talking about coaching matters in 2020 until the end of the season…and that will remain the case".
"I am not here to talk on Wayne’s behalf or the chairman’s behalf," he said.
The bizarre twist in the affair is that when Bennett was asked whether he had been offered such a role at the club after the 38-18 win over South Sydney, he suggested he was unaware the mysterious letter existed.
"That’s what I love about our club right now. You can tell me about things I’ve never even heard about," he said.
"You are better informed than I am."
Broncos fans may wonder why there is this stand-off over a letter that, based on what Bennett said on Thursday night, sounds like it was lost in the mail as well.
Perhaps for two reasons. The content of the letter is not what Bennett would want to read as he asked for a coaching extension beyond 2019 as head coach. The board has not agreed to grant him that and the letter suggests what their preferred option is for the 68-year-old.
For White to publicly admit that would fly in the face of his statement on Friday that no comments would be made about the 2020 coaching role at Brisbane until after the season is completed.
White explained another reason why he would not discuss the existence of the letter.
"You are speaking about matters of a private nature," he said.
"I am CEO of a publicly listed company and I am not going to speak publicly about discussions of a private nature which concern employees of this club. I can’t do that."
It was put to White that he had verbally told Bennett to take the advice he has often given players about not playing a year too long, and retire from head coaching in 2019.
"It would be totally unprofessional if I went and discussed matters of a private nature in a public forum and I am not going to do that," White responded.
"All the discussions that I have had, and the chairman has had, with Wayne have been done with the utmost respect and consideration for the future … and respectful of the role Wayne has had at this club for 25 years.
"He is entitled to, and deserves respect.”
While no decision about the identity of a Broncos coach post-2019 has been made, it is likely a seventh premiership would alter the odds of Bennett being back for one more year.
NRL.com asked an influential Broncos powerbroker recently what chance Bennett was of staying on beyond 2019 and he said "the key for Wayne is to keep winning".
White was also asked whether a title would get Bennett the contract extension he wanted.
"I hope we are in a position that at the end of this year we are viewing our coach’s performance on the basis of a premiership," he said.
"That would be a wonderful result for our club and a wonderful result for Wayne."