Pressure mounting on battling Bennett
FOR all his experience and longevity in rugby league, Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett is feeling the pressure big time.
Rumours the Broncos want Paul Green, the Matt Lodge drama, Kevvy Walters' departure, the poor form of his highest-paid players Anthony Milford and Jack Bird, losses to the Gold Coast and Newcastle plus Nathan Brown's very personal spray after Saturday night's game. It's all adding up.
The Broncos are playing so poorly they could easily be sitting none from five.
Only the goalpost saved them against the Cowboys in round two and only an incorrect penalty ruling against the Wests Tigers in golden point allowed them to win the following week.
In all his years of coaching, Bennett has never been under such intense pressure and scrutiny.
Walters' departure as a Broncos assistant last week was a telling blow.
And it was not only about spending more time on his Maroons preparation.
Walters was genuinely frustrated that Bennett wasn't taking on board many of his suggestions and felt he was wasting his time.
The Broncos and Bennett are a fast-developing story.
As if the Walters exit wasn't enough last week, Bennett criticised Brown on the eve of the Knights game for 'unbuilding' what he'd previously done for the club.
Yet you go back to Bennett's 2014 press conference quotes when he walked out on the club and said: "I am not comfortable with the performance of the team over the three years and I take full responsibility for that.
"I believe it will take a number of years to reach an acceptable position and that is what I am unable to commit to. I'm most disappointed with what we've done.
"The overall performance was the catalyst for me. I'm extremely disappointed. I'm embarrassed by it and it's time to move on."
And then a very different comment last week: "We didn't leave it in bad shape."
I'm not defending what Brown said after Saturday night's stirring 15-10 victory. It was too personal.
Three weeks ago at the height of the Lodge outrage, Bennett had a decent crack at the media.
He said the coverage and concern about the thug's contract registration was out of order.
"You will never divide us guys, so stay out of it," he said. "Our strength is our club and our people."
Well, the jury is still out on that one.
Their performances since have been ordinary. One try-less win against the Tigers.
The pressure is building as they prepare for Saturday's game against the unbeaten Warriors in Auckland.
This is an organisation where the demand for excellence is like no other club.
Just making the finals each year isn't good enough.
Especially for the old seven-time premier coach who was brought back specifically to win their first grand final since 2006.
The Broncos are facing some huge challenges to get their footy right over the next few weeks.
Bird is playing awfully. He quit the Cronulla Sharks to try to get his hands on more of the football but has hardly been sighted. And to think Bennett could have kept Ben Hunt instead of signing him.
At five-eighth Milford is performing like a $300,000 player, not a million dollar man.
The most experienced players Darius Boyd and Sam Thaiday are not aiming up.
Sure, you don't write teams off with two wins from the first five games.
But the pressure and expectations are going nowhere.