Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett are two of the few coaches people would stop to listen to what they have to say.
Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett are two of the few coaches people would stop to listen to what they have to say.

Bennett has an aura that few can live up to

WAYNE Bennett will be tracking the footprints of one of his coaching mentors, Jack Gibson, by signing with South Sydney.

Gibson, who championed Bennett to the Broncos consortium in 1987 as the foundation coach they needed for their team, was previously the only man to coach both the Rabbitohs and Dragons, two NSW heavyweight clubs rich in the league history which Bennett so values.

St George and their joint venture descendant St George Illawarra have had 36 coaches between them but only one, Gibson, has coached them and also the Rabbitohs.

 

Rugby league coaching legends Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett.
Rugby league coaching legends Jack Gibson and Wayne Bennett.

 

Bennett, so often thought of as a Broncos coach, has actually signed to coach his fifth NRL club, following on from Canberra, St George Illawarra and Newcastle.

As a 12-year-old who had his imagination fired by watching the 1962 Great Britain touring team play at Toowoomba's Athletic Oval, Bennett would love the idea that he coaxed the long-suffering Dragons to the 2010 title and has the chance to win South Sydney's second in almost five decades.

Bennett told The Courier-Mail last Wednesday that he intends to serve out the final 2019 year of his Broncos contract.

Plenty of the same mainstream media commentators and social media pundits who had reckoned for many weeks that Anthony Seibold would succeed Bennett at Red Hill also say he will take charge in the pre-season, with Bennett starting work with the Rabbitohs for 2019.

Rugby league fans probably look at it by now as a cherry on top of the cake if what they are told turns out to be the truth.

It's a funny old industry which can treat their customers that way.

Having advocated publicly in 2014 that the Broncos turn to a younger coach to harness younger ideas, I'm hardly the one to say Bennett deserved another contract for 2020, by which time he'd be 70.

But one reason why the Broncos board wanted Bennett for 2015 - his ability to rally sponsors and the supporter base - was laid out in Bradford, England last week.

There was "an evening with Wayne Bennett'', where league nuts and others stumped up cash to listen to the England coach hold court at a dinner in the Yorkshire city.

We've seen it before in Queensland many times, with pins dropping silently to the carpet as Bennett opened up, to the surprise and delight of many in the audience.

Imagine selling tickets to an evening with any other NRL coach, except maybe Craig Bellamy.

In Bradford, Bennett warmed to a familiar theme before a new audience: how he likes the chance to improve the people in his care, something which will resonate among many players at Redfern.

"I care about people and players and I want to get the best out of people - I take pride in doing that," Bennett told interviewer Steve Mascord on stage.

"Players will always want to give their best for you as long as you do your best for them."

Like they did with five-time premiership coach Gibson, people stop to hear Bennett speak because he so rarely speaks at arresting length and players decades younger listen in.



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