Unimaginable but untenable: Why Brisbane had to punt Bennett

The Wayne Bennett-Anthony Seibold saga moved quickly from an untenable situation to an unimaginable one in the space of a few hours on Sunday.

After denials and a determination to set the record straight by Bennett on Friday, it took barely 10 hours after an article appeared in NewsCorp publications detailing Seibold's reaction to the latest twist in the tale for the "House that Wayne Built" to come crashing down.

From the outside it appears what has been said publicly, has not been the full story of what has been happening privately.

Bennett alluded to this on Friday by saying there was "a lot more" going on behind the scenes. But the 68-year-old's insistence that he had not spoken to Souths "about 2019, only 2020 and 2021" seems to be the simple crux of his undoing.

The NewsCorp article also revealed a Seibold email Souths CEO Blake Solly that he was told twice - by Solly and football manager Shane Richardson - that he would be coaching the Broncos in 2019.

Seibold has been cleaning out his office at Redfern and he and his wife had been making school inquiries for their three daughters in Brisbane.

He said he'd been kept out of the loop on training and football matters at the club for four weeks. Seibold also accused Bennett of speaking to senior South Sydney players and some football department staff, when he told the Friday press conference at Red Hill he had spoken to no one.

Seibold said he was "sick of Wayne carrying on. I've bit my tongue and said nothing until now".

And now it seems the Broncos are having their say as well.

It is hard to move Bennett on, akin to killing Santa Claus in Brisbane. The Broncos are highly respected and admired as an organisation and football team.

Bennett has brought the club six premierships and identified, developed, coached numerous Test and Origin stars. The fans love him because he has brought them success – a winning team, the only team in Brisbane, and they show that love by packing out Suncorp Stadium for virtually any home game.

They also like the way he's his own man and takes on the media, critics and commentators in defence of his team and his own actions.

But even the fans want fairness, integrity, and above all loyalty, from the Broncos – from the chairman, across to the coach, and down to the last player on the NRL roster.

No one likes to hear that what is stated publicly, turns out not to be the case privately.

Five weeks ago South Sydney trumpeted Wayne Bennett signing a two-year deal. Six days later and the Broncos fired back with their own press release saying Rabbitohs' Dally M coach of the year Anthony Seibold would be coming to Brisbane on a four-year deal.

The catch was that neither were taking up their posts until 2020. That prompted most everyone in the rugby league world to say the situation was untenable – or in other words unworkable, unsustainable when it came chiefly to the recruitment and futures of players and coaching staff.

But as the weeks went on, both Bennett and Seibold stood firm in their desires to see out the 2019 season with their respective clubs. They repeated that stance often, even when it became public knowledge South Sydney would prefer a swap to happen as soon as possible.

Bennett put the kybosh on that on Friday when he fronted the media to tell them he was staying.

And fans of both teams were prepared to accept it – whether they liked it or not – that both coaches were good enough, strong enough in character, and had the players support to finish off their respective contracts.

But the question now is whether the Broncos squad would be comfortable if Bennett was indeed talking to Rabbitohs players about their futures. By all means Bennett was not due back officially at Broncos training until Monday so he had a right to talk to anyone in his spare time.

However, Bennett pointedly said all the drama over an early swap was from Souths and the media.

Broncos captain Darius Boyd, who is close to Bennett, accused the media of following and harassing Bennett like he was "a criminal" and that he'd done nothing wrong.

Bennett may not have done anything "wrong" but neither club can be comfortable when such allegations are raised in the media.

The time had come for the saga to reach its conclusion. It's not quite there yet - Bennett will surely return serve, but the final chapter is not far away and these two men can get back to their business of actually coaching NRL teams. 

 

The views in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily express the opinions of the NRL, ARLC, NRL clubs or state associations.