Backstabbing, confusion, emotion, surprise media statements, egos, back flipping and News Corp – no, this article isn’t about federal politics. The NRL coaching drama has continued over the last week, after looking all but settled a few months ago, and like in Canberra News Corp has played a major role in proceedings.
The Brisbane Broncos have brought the circus around NRL coaching for 2019 to an end by sacking head coach Wayne Bennett, who will now head to South Sydney a year early in a direct swap with Anthony Siebold. Bennett had announced on Friday that he intended to see out his contract at Brisbane, but the board of the club brought matters to a head yesterday evening.
When it was announced that the Rabbitohs and Broncos coaches would be swapping roles in 2020, it appeared inevitable that the moves would happen for 2019 to enable each club to plan for the future. Siebold certainly assumed that this would be the case, and started making plans to move to Brisbane. Bennett, however, dug in his heels, seemingly determined to get a payout from Brisbane.
After calling his press conference on Friday, many in the media (and, apparently, the Broncos administrations) assumed that Bennett was planning to announce his move to Souths. However, he declared that he wasn’t going anywhere until his contract was over – which came as a big shock to everyone, especially Siebold.
Siebold made his own comments on Saturday to complain about Bennett’s conduct, which included allegations that he was in contact with Souths players about recruitment and positions for 2019. If true this would have been a breach of his Bronco’s contract, and provided grounds for termination – and if media speculation is correct (which it hasn’t been for this whole saga) without paying out a cent.
After management at Brisbane had spent months trying to resolve the issue News Corp (the club’s majority shareholder) stepped in and forced the hand of the board and CEO. Bennett apparently found out via voicemail, as he was spending time with his disabled son and had turned his phone off to avoid calls from journalists.
The immediate swap brings the coaching carousel to an end for 2019 – barring any dramatic exits. Des Hasler has already come back in from the cold with Manly, while Ivan Cleary has moved to Penrith and Michael Maguire took over at Wests Tigers. Meanwhile, Trent Barrett and Anthony Griffin will need to rebuild their careers, and we can go back to focussing on player movements.