Wayne Bennett has stolen rugby league's spotlight within an hour of qualifying for his 10th grand final, accusing Broncos powerbrokers of "undermining" his negotiations to join South Sydney three years ago.
Bennett was at his expansive, enthralling best after the Rabbitohs 36-16 triumph over Manly secured another decider for the veteran coach and kept alive hopes of a fairytale finish for he, Adam Reynolds and Benji Marshall among others at Redfern.
South Sydney's progression to the grand final against either Melbourne or Penrith offers all manner of storylines, not least Reynolds' fitness given a groin injury left him in doubt for the Sea Eagles clash and unable to kick for much of the contest.
Bennett though held court for 15 minutes after full-time – a marked departure from the short, sharp two-three-minute press conference he can often deliver – to ensure focus is on him rather than his team to start grand final week.
The 71-year-old took aim at Brisbane officials over his ugly exit from the club to join Souths at the end of 2018, he and Anthony Seibold trading roles only after protracted negotiations that culminated in Bennett's sacking.
South Sydney seal their spot in the grand final with a try down their lethal left
"I will say publicly that they [Brisbane] undermined me in the conversations with Souths," Bennett said.
"So they didn’t do a little job on me they did the best possible job they could have done on me.
“But to Souths’ credit there were some people there that had worked with me before and they were happy to bite the bullet and give me the opportunity.
“I owe Russell Crowe [Rabbitohs co-owner] and hopefully tonight there is some repayment in what the team has done that means so much to him.
“And the chairman Nick Pappas as well has been wonderful and all the board so I have had tremendous support there and it has been refreshing to be honest.
The showtime Rabbitohs at their absolute best!
“The last three years have been as refreshing a three years as I have had in coaching for a long time.”
At the time of Bennett and Seibold effectively trading clubs with what proved disastrous results for the latter, Seibold levelled similar accusations at Bennett before the switch was made.
Bennett though has had the last laugh, with one final outing as Rabbitohs coach before his return to Queensland next year and a likely expansion coaching gig on the horizon.
Yet another grand final win would be his eighth and make him the first coach since Tim Sheens in 2005 to do so after being sacked by their previous club.
Broncos bosses are acutely aware of the success Bennett has enjoyed since being moved on at the age of 68, the thinking being his time as an NRL coach had come to a close.
Bennett's brutal honesty with himself will dictate when he finishes coaching
Bennett made doubly sure in the bowels of Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
“They felt a lot of things,” Bennett said when asked if he felt vindicated in proving Brisbane wrong.
“I wasn’t listening to them because I have spent a lifetime being honest with myself and if I thought I was washed up as a coach I wouldn’t coach another day because I would let too many people down.
“And I’ll determine that. No one is going to determine that for me. So nothing has changed for me.
“If I want to coach I will look to coach and make a contribution. I learned that as a young coach about when you should retire and when you shouldn’t retire because I worked with a coach that didn’t have the ambition anymore and the passion for it.
“But I’m not at that stage.”