Broncos stars fed up with Wayne’s world
WAYNE Bennett's time in Sydney got off to a strange start as he hid from waiting media at the airport for over an hour after touching down in the NSW capital.
The Brisbane legend was officially sacked on Sunday and installed as South Sydney coach, while former Rabbitohs mentor Anthony Seibold was given the all clear to start his new gig in Queensland yesterday, overseeing his first training session with his new troops.
Bennett was supposed to start with Souths in 2020 but after it was revealed he had been talking to Bunnies players and making suggestions about their football program, the Broncos had no choice but to cut him loose without the $900,000 payout he was searching for.
It means what everyone suspected - that the coaching swap with Seibold could not possibly wait until 2020 given both had already signalled their intentions to join new clubs - eventually came to fruition.
Bennett issued a generic statement via Souths yesterday saying he was excited about joining the club, and told Channel 9 at Brisbane airport yesterday he wasn't upset about how his tenure had ended.
"I knew what the ending would be," Bennett said. "No, I'm not sad."
Bennett said the coaching saga had dragged on for a month because he "had a contract with the Broncos" and refused to take the bait when asked if he'd been unfairly portrayed throughout the messy situation.
"That's for another day," he said. "I'm going to a new club and I'm pretty excited about that."
Bennett landed in Sydney last night and had an acquaintance go on an exploratory mission to find out where all the media was waiting. The 68-year-old remained away from prying eyes in the Qantas Club lounge before being taken on a terminal buggy to a loading dock.
He was found by journalists hiding near some wooden crates as he waited for his ride, but refused to answer questions before jumping into a white car and being whisked away.
After all the uncertainty following Bennett's and Seibold's futures, the master coach's first job will be winning the trust of Souths players.
AAP reports Bennett's closest ally and Brisbane captain Darius Boyd - who has only ever been coached by Bennett in his 13-year NRL career - led a senior group of players who told CEO Paul White the Broncos must bring closure to the coaching swap controversy before their first full pre-season training session on Monday, so they could focus on 2019.
It is believed they grew frustrated after Bennett sensationally backflipped at a press conference he called himself on Friday to announce he would remain at Brisbane in 2019 despite the Broncos and South Sydney thrashing out a swap deal with Seibold.
According to The Daily Telegraph, Bennett was on the nose with senior Broncos players when they found out he was reportedly in talks with Souths players about future plans when he was supposed to be preparing Brisbane for 2019.
Boyd revealed on Monday how he sought "certainty" from White amid the month-long saga.
It seems the former Test fullback's patience over his long-term mentor's on-again, off-again swap with Seibold finally wore thin.
"I think a few of the older boys took it (coaching controversy) in our stride and tried not to let it worry us but for a young group we really needed that certainty," Boyd said. "Whitey kept me in the loop the whole time.
"Every time I spoke to the playing group I just told them we had to keep it business as usual.
"(But) we wanted certainty and now we have it with Seibs. Now we can move forward."
But at least Bennett has arrived in Sydney to some good news. South Sydney is set for a $6 million cash injection from two shirt sponsorship deals, according to reports.
The Rabbitohs, owned by film star Russell Crowe, are in talks to tie up deals for both their home and away strips, each bringing in around $1 million a year for a total of $6 million, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Top-line brands Crown and Fujitsu have been the most recent home and away kit sponsors, however, it is unclear who the potential new backers will be.
Meanwhile, Bennett is expected to hold his first press conference at Redfern today following his dramatic sacking via voicemail.