He is a champion in the coach’s box and even better when he throws on his psychologist’s hat and plays with the minds of players, rivals, the captivated audience and attentive media.
Who am I? I am Wayne Bennett.
Only four teams in the 2011 NRL season hold the key to the premiership –Melbourne, Manly, Brisbane and Bennett’s Dragons. However, one hand is slowly slipping from NRL’s greatest prize, that illustrious trophy.
The Dragons have struggled recently against Canterbury (19-24), South’s (24-34), West’s (14-16), and the Roosters (12-20). The horizon doesn’t look any easier for St George either with a Friday night clash against the all-conquering Melbourne Storm in Melbourne.
After last weekend’s loss to Sydney, Bennett sat in front of the awaiting journos and said that, “players play and coach’s coach”. True Wayne but the coach is always the casualty if any person is to vacate their position from the inner sanctum.
The master coach is one of the best in the business of carefully constructing his words and what he wants his players to read in the papers the next morning. But even that seems to be failing to be delivered now.
One factor among the reasons why the club has gone deep into a form slump seems to now be coming out to a greater extent – it revolves around the forthcoming departure of Bennett who is set to join Newcastle in the 2012.
There have been mentions that the players are holding back and not exerting themselves to the levels of which they are capable of. Although in the background, St George players may be looking discontentedly ahead to next year where Mark Gasiner will no longer be at the club due to retirement and the fact that Australian fullback Darius Boyd will be following his coach to Newcastle.
It is a strange situation to be in and the players would be feeling is the most; that is that Bennett is moving on to a rival and they may want to now hold closer their match-plan tactics and strategies.
Supporters have contributed the losses to a tough State of Origin series and the recent Jamie Soward’s drop in form, but the origin excuse is invalid – just look at the Storm.
It is a massive game for the Dragons tomorrow and equally for the Storm as both sides head towards the finals. Will Bennett’s comments to the media strike a chord in the Dragons players or will they continue their downfall at the most important time of the year?
My prediction is for the Storm to win comfortably and the fireworks to set Melbourne’s skyline alight.