Super coach’s theory about ‘huge’ NRL issue

Wayne Bennett has taken aim at the management of clubs, blaming them and not the rules for the surge in blowouts this season.

The comments come after the Rabbitohs beat the Wests Tigers 38-22 in what was one of the tighter matches in a round that saw four games decided by 38 points or more.

The general consensus has been that the six again rule has exposed a massive gulf between the top teams and those below them, but Bennett said clubs had to wear the blame for the lopsided results in 2021.

“Clubs and their management … are absolutely adding to the scoreboards,” he said.

“You (the media) keep blaming the players, but you’re so far off the mark it doesn’t matter.

“You’re not in clubland and you don’t know how it works. Until the club itself gets its management in order, their whole ship – the clubs, the players – will not be able to respond.

“Management of clubs has a huge result on performances at the moment. Clubs have got to take a hell of a lot more responsibility than they’re taking for the way the game is being played. It’s as simple as that.

“I’m not going to name names, and I’m not going to name clubs, but if you look at some of the decisions they’ve made with the things that have happened to players, I wouldn’t want to be at that club.

“I know if I was at that club then I wouldn’t be playing very well.”

The super coach said anyone in a working environment would struggle to produce their best if the conditions around them weren’t up to scratch.

That involves recruitment and retention, work ethic, training methods and the overall culture of clubs, something that the bottom clubs have all failed miserably to manage this season.

“Not one of you guys in this room could go to a toxic environment to work and do your best work,” he said.

“You’re professional men in your roles as journalists, and it doesn’t happen for you. It’s no different in a football team, but the easy blame is to put the blame on the players because the team’s not playing well.

“You’ve got to look deeper than that because that’s where the problem is. You just look at some of the transfers and movement of players at clubs within the last month even, it’s pretty ordinary stuff. Until clubs learn to manage themselves better, it’s not going to get better.”

However, he remained optimistic that things can be fixed if the right decisions are made going forward.

“It’s had a huge impact on the game,” he said.

“If they get it right and they get it better (blowouts will decrease). We may still have to look at the rules, but it’s not just the rules that are creating this.”

Bennett has coached South Sydney since 2019. (Photo by Jason McCawley/Getty Images)Source:Getty Images

Bennett’s Origin advice

Wayne Bennett had no idea who the Blues halves were when he spoke after South Sydney’s win over the Wests Tigers, but he must have read Brad Fittler’s mind after he suggested New South Wales should go with younger halves instead of the Rabbitohs’ playmakers for Game Three.

Cody Walker and Adam Reynolds showed on Sunday why their club combination would have worked so well in the Origin arena, but Fittler went with Mitch Moses and Jack Wighton instead for the dead rubber to replace injured Panthers duo Nathan Cleary and Jarome Luai.

The South Sydney halves have both represented their state in the past, but Bennett said the Blues and Maroons should pick their teams with an eye to the future given the shield is already heading south.

“They won the series, but they won’t want to lose the third game – that’s part of your instinct,” he said of the Blues.

“But at the same time, they might see it as an opportunity to play a couple of other players there that are younger and they think might have more time with New South Wales. That’s what I’d be doing, because while you want to win the third game, you’ve also got to keep an eye on what’s going forward for next year.”

He conceded club combinations are a strong option for big representative games, but stressed the importance of giving fresh faces an opportunity to show whether they belong on that stage.

“That always works pretty well, but I would be looking at the long term for NSW, and Queensland should be doing the same with their team selections right now,” he said.

“They may not want to change anything, but I’m saying that you’ve got to take the opportunity to put these guys under more pressure to see what they’ve got.”

Bennett walked the walk in 2003 when he gave youngster Cameron Smith a crack in the third game after Queensland lost the first two matches, and that turned out to be a master stroke.

“I remember bringing Cameron Smith in for his first game when I was coaching Origin, and I also brought Billy Slater in for his first Origin game when we’d lost the series,” he said.

“We’ve done that for a long time in Queensland and they’ve gone on to be great players for us.

“The reality is Queensland will do everything they possibly can to win, and NSW will as well. At the same time, you’ve got to have a bit of an eye on the future. It’s as simple as that.

“There’s not much between players when you make selections, so you can go with a younger player who has less experience in this game than you would with a player if the series was 1-all.”

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