Wayne Bennett (rugby league)

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Wayne Bennett
Wayne Bennett (4 October 2006, Brisbane) 2.jpg
Bennett in 2006
Personal information
Full name Wayne James Bennett
Nickname Benny[1]
Born (1950-01-01) 1 January 1950 (age 69)
Allora, Queensland, Australia
Playing information
Height 191 cm (6 ft 3 in)
Position Wing
Years Team Pld T G FG P
19??–72 All Whites
1972–7? Huddersfield  ?  ?  ?  ?  ?
Brothers (Bris.)
1976 Ipswich
1977–79 Souths (Bris.)
Years Team Pld T G FG P
19??–?? Toowoomba
1971–73 Queensland 7 7
1971–72 Australia 0 0 0 0 0
Coaching information
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1976 Ipswich
1977–79 Souths (Bris.)
1980–82 Brothers (Bris.)
1984–85 Souths (Bris.)
1987 Canberra 28 17 0 11 61
1988–08 Brisbane 532 339 12 181 64
2009–11 St. George Illawarra 79 51 1 27 65
2012–14 Newcastle 75 34 1 40 45
Total 714 441 14 259 62
Years Team Gms W D L W%
1986–88 Queensland 9 5 0 4 56
1998 Australia 2 2 0 0 100
1998 Queensland 3 2 0 1 67
2001–03 Queensland 9 5 0 4 56
2004–05 Australia 14 10 1 3 71
2010–15 NRL All Stars 5 2 0 3 40
Source: Rugby League Project

Wayne James Bennett AM (born 1 January 1950) is an Australian professional rugby league football coach and former player who is the current head coach for the Brisbane Broncos of the National Rugby League (NRL). An Australian international and Queensland interstate representative winger or fullback of the 1970s, he also worked as a Queensland Police officer before becoming a Brisbane Rugby League premiership-winning coach, and in the 1980s earned selection as Queensland's State of Origin coach. After starting his NSWRL Premiership coaching career with the Canberra Raiders, in 1988 Bennett was appointed the inaugural coach of the new Brisbane Broncos club, later winning six premierships with them, and in 1998 was first selected to coach the Australian national team. He has since coached the St. George Illawarra Dragons (with whom he won the 2010 NRL Premiership) and the Newcastle Knights, and set Australian coaching records for most grand final wins[2] (7) and most seasons with a single club (21).


Born in the small township of Allora, Queensland,[3] Wayne Bennett grew up in a working-class family in nearby Warwick with an alcoholic father who deserted the family when he was eleven years old, forcing Wayne to enter the workforce at an early age. He has two sisters, Michelle and Gretta and two brothers, Robert[4] and Dwight. In spite of his upbringing he remains an avowed non-smoker, non-drinker and non-gambler. Before becoming involved with the Queensland Rugby League on a full-time basis, Bennett started to work as a police officer at the age of 15 while playing junior rugby league in Warwick. His family already had ties to the Police and rugby league in South East Queensland through his uncle, 1948 Kangaroo forward Eddie Brosnan.[5]

Playing career

From 1970, Bennett played football for Warwick, and also in the Brisbane Rugby League premiership for Past Brothers, Ipswich and Souths. He was a talented winger and goal-kicker, and represented Queensland 9 times between 1971 and 1973 ( including 7 games against New South Wales).[6] Here Bennett was coached by Bob Bax, who he has credited as being a major influence in his own later coaching career.[7] Bennett also played two tour matches for Australia on the 1972 tour of New Zealand. Also in 1972 Bennett played for Toowoomba in the last ever Bulimba Cup final against Brisbane.[8] After that he had a spell playing for Huddersfield in England alongside fellow Queenslander and future brother-in-law Greg Vievers.[9] He played for Brisbane's Brothers club and in 1974 under coach Paul Broughton reached the Grand Final which they lost to Fortitude Valley.

Coaching career

Wayne Bennett is the most successful coach in the entire Australian Rugby League history and has experienced success with the last three teams he has coached.

Early years

Bennett began coaching in Ipswich in 1976,[10] before moving to Brisbane Rugby League Premiership sides, Souths and Brothers. After the births of his 3 children, Bennett had a break from coaching. He returned in 1983 as coach of Souths Acacia Ridge under 16's as well as the Queensland Police Academy under 18's team which he took to a premiership. He also worked as the Police Academy's fitness instructor.[11] Bennett then took over the Souths job and took them to the 1984 grand final, which they lost to the Wynnum-Manly Seagulls. Revenge was to come a year later when the Bennett-coached Magpies defeated the Seagulls 10–8 in the BRL grand final to take the premiership. This was against a Seagulls line-up featuring Australian captain Wally Lewis and centre Gene Miles, both of whom would later captain the Brisbane Broncos under Bennett.

In 1986 Bennett took over from Des Morris as coach of the Queensland State of Origin team.[12] The Maroons were beaten 3–0 in a series whitewash that year, however Bennett was retained as Queensland's coach for two more years.

In 1987 Bennett moved south to join the NSWRL's Winfield Cup Premiership when he was appointed co-coach of the Canberra Raiders alongside then Australian team coach Don Furner. With the Queensland side, Bennett won the 1987 State of Origin series. By the end of the 1987 NSWRL season, He and Furner had guided the Raiders to their first Grand Final which was lost to the Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles 18–8.

Brisbane Broncos

Bennett was appointed to be the first coach of the Brisbane Broncos when the club was formed in 1988. That season with the Maroons he defeated New South Wales in a 3 nil whitewash in the State of Origin, but Bennett discontinued his representative coaching to focus on the Broncos.

Bennett's reputation for being able to make tough and even unpopular decisions was characterised by his sacking of Wally Lewis as club captain in 1990. At the end of the season the King was not made an offer large enough to retain him, with Bennett citing salary cap restrictions and the need to keep Sydney clubs away from more junior talent coming through.[13] The Broncos won their first premierships in 1992 under Bennett. In the weeks following the grand final Bennett travelled with the Broncos to England, where they played the 1992 World Club Challenge against British champions Wigan, helping Brisbane become the first NSWRL club to win the match in Britain. The following season the Broncos again won the grand final, gaining a second consecutive premiership. During the 1994 NSWRL season, Bennett coached defending premiers Brisbane when they hosted British champions Wigan for the 1994 World Club Challenge and lost. Bennett was appointed as Queensland coach again for the 1995 series but pulled out of the position after players aligned with the breakaway Super League organisation (including the majority of his club team, the Brisbane Broncos) were refused selection. In 1997's Super League half of the football season, the Broncos under Bennett dominated, winning the 1997 World Club Championship as well as the Telstra Cup grand final in Brisbane. Bennett resumed representative coaching duties in 1998 with Queensland and was also given the honour of coaching Australia when he was appointed to replace Bob Fulton as Kangaroos coach. Australia was undefeated in two test matches against the Kiwis. Bennett won his fourth premiership with the Broncos when they took the 1998 NRL grand final and he was also named "Coach of the Year" at the Queensland Sport Awards.[14] Bennett ceased in his role as coach of the Australian national team in March 1999, being replaced by Chris Anderson.[15]

In 2000 Bennett won his fifth premiership with the Broncos. Following the premiership win the Australian Rugby Union tried to poach Bennett, but he declined.[16] Having won the 2000 NRL Premiership, the Broncos travelled to England to play against 2000's Super League V Champions, St Helens RLFC for the 2001 World Club Challenge, with Bennett overseeing Brisbane's loss. Bennett would again coach Queensland in 2001, gaining widespread attention after his decision to recall Allan Langer to the Maroons from the European Super League for the deciding third game of the 2001 State of Origin series. Queensland won the series and the decision was hailed as a "master stroke".[who?] Bennett remained Queensland's coach for the 2002 and 2003 series before stepping down again. He continued his involvement with coaching for Queensland through the Queensland Academy of Sport and in an off-field role with the Queensland Rugby League. On Australia Day 2004 Bennett was honoured as a member of the Order of Australia "for service to rugby league football, particularly as a coach, and to the community."[17]

Bennett with the Telstra Premiership trophy at post 2006 NRL Grand Final celebrations in Brisbane.

Bennett is a passionate advocate of international Rugby League, and was instrumental in the revival of the Tri-Nations series in 2004. In that year he was again appointed Australian coach, and took Australia to reclaim the Trans-Tasman Trophy (lost to New Zealand in 2003) and win the second Rugby League Tri-Nations Series. At the end of the 2005 season, after five successive years without a grand final appearance, Bennett decided to have a clean-out of the coaching staff, removing such long-time allies as Gary Belcher, Glenn Lazarus and Kevin Walters.[18] That year he received the Rugby League International Federation's coach of the year award.[19] However, on 9 December 2005, it was announced that Bennett had resigned as Australia's coach, after the Kangaroos lost an international series for the first time in 27 years,[20] and equalled their biggest loss in 98 years, going down 24–0 to New Zealand in the final of the 2005 Tri-nations series. In 2006 a secret deal being brokered between Bennett and the Sydney Roosters club for him to become their coach was made public. This is said to have caused the deterioration in his relationship with the Broncos management which eventually led to his resignation.[21] During the 2006 finals series, he became only the second person (after Tim Sheens) to coach 500 premiership games. He also signed on to continue coaching the Broncos for a further two years.[22] The sixth premiership final won by Brisbane against Melbourne made Wayne Bennett the most successful Grand Final coach in history.[23] He again was named Queensland's Sport Coach of the Year for 2007 and was made a life member of the Broncos club. His refusal to make an acceptance speech at the club's presentation ball showed the strain in his relationship with the Broncos.[24] Bennett coached the 2007 All Golds.[25] In doing so, he introduced the New Zealand players to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.[26]

Bennett and Tonie Carroll at Suncorp Stadium in 2008

Bennett was originally contracted to the Broncos until the end of 2009 [1], but on the night of 4 February 2008 at a Broncos board meeting, he submitted his letter of resignation and sought an early release at the end of the 2008 season. Bennett's coaching future was confirmed on 31 March 2008, when he signed a three-year contract to coach the St. George Illawarra Dragons from season 2009.[27] After much speculation, Bennett became assistant coach and advisor to New Zealand coach Stephen Kearney in 2008. This was in preparation for the Centenary test against the Kangaroos. Bennett was retained in the same role for the 2008 Rugby League World Cup, which the Kiwis won. Former New Zealand coach Graham Lowe has credited Bennett with the victory.[28]

St George Illawarra Dragons

The Bennett era at St George Illawarra began with high turnover of staff and players. High performance director Jeremy Hickmans, conditioner Scott Campbell and manager/assistant Paul Massey were recruited to replace the existing staff, while the playing roster had recently lost high profile stars Mark Gasnier and Jason Ryles. The club's player recruiting however was extensive: Jeremy Smith, Darius Boyd, Neville Costigan, Luke Priddis, Michael Weyman, Mathew Head and Mickey Paea.[29] At the Dragons Bennett was to be re-united with former Broncos Wendell Sailor and Luke Priddis, both of whom had won premierships with him at Brisbane. Neville Costigan, who also played under Bennett at the Broncos joined the Dragons that year in addition to Darius Boyd and Nick Emmett who also moved from Brisbane to St. George Illawarra at the same time as Bennett.

His first game with the Dragons was a golden point loss to the previous season's grand finalists, Melbourne Storm.[30] In round 4 of the 2009 NRL season Bennett returned to Suncorp Stadium with the Dragons and for the first time coached against the club he helped build. St. George Illawarra defeated the Broncos convincingly as the Dragons continued to lead the competition in defence. However, after winning the minor premiership in his first season at the club, it was the Brisbane Broncos who knocked the Dragons out of finals contention at the end of the 2009 season. It was the Broncos' first ever finals win at the venue,[clarification needed] whilst Bennett's winless finals record continued at the same venue.

In 2009 Bennett was inducted into the Queensland Sport Hall of Fame.[31]

In the 2010 NRL season, Bennett guided the Dragons to their second consecutive minor premiership and on to the 2010 NRL Grand Final, the joint venture club's second. After years of having a "choker" tag they faced the Sydney Roosters at ANZ Stadium in the decider at the season's end. The rain fell across the ground during the match and Bennett's players had a fiery 2nd Half after a traditional spray at half time as they were being led 8–6 at the break. The Dragons under Bennett were successful in winning their first premiership as a joint venture who went on to beat the Roosters 32–8. It is a credit to Bennett as he has won seven from seven Grand Finals as head coach of a club, his only loss as co-coach of Canberra in 1987. He is arguably the greatest coach of all time, surpassing Jack Gibson's record of 5 premiership wins, two with the Roosters and three with Parramatta.

The Dragons went on to defeat 2010's Super League XV champions, Wigan Warriors in the 2011 World Club Challenge, but Bennett was absent, choosing to fly back to Australia days before the match to be with his ill mother-in-law, and leaving assistant coach Steve Price in charge.

On 30 March 2011 Bennett announced he would not continue on as coach of St George Illawarra beyond the 2011 season, in true Bennett style he kept his reasons for going close to his chest.

Bennett's final game at the helm of St. George Illawarra ended the way it started, with a heartbreaking golden point loss against his old club, the Brisbane Broncos, at Suncorp Stadium. This extended Bennett's winless finals record at the venue to eight.

Newcastle Knights

On 12 April 2011 Bennett announced that he would be joining Nathan Tinkler's newly acquired Newcastle Knights for 2012 on a 4-year deal. Darius Boyd again followed Bennett to his new club, moving with him to Newcastle as he had when the pair moved from Brisbane to St George Illawarra. During the 2012 Newcastle Knights season he was credited with the resurgence in Willie Mason's career after Bennett had agreed to sign the 31-year-old after an aborted attempt at a rugby union career in France. The Knights failed to make the finals in the 2012 season, the first finals series not to feature Bennett in 21 years.

For the 2013 Newcastle Knights season Bennett took the club within one match of the 2013 NRL Grand Final. Part-way through the 2014 Newcastle Knights season, during which the club's relationship with Nathan Tinkler ended, Bennett announced that he would be leaving the club at the end of the season, one year earlier than contracted, to return to the Brisbane Broncos ahead of the 2015 season.

Return to the Brisbane Broncos

Bennett returned to coach the Brisbane Broncos for the 2015 NRL season,[32][33] with Darius Boyd once again following Bennett back to his original club. The Broncos subsequently finished 2nd in the regular season and made it to the grand final,[34] only to lose 17-16 to the North Queensland Cowboys in golden point extra time.

Public persona

Bennett is known for a number of unusual and distinctive behaviours which have on occasion been the subject of media attention, both positive and negative. These include Bennett's taciturn nature and reputation for almost never smiling[35][36] and appearing outwardly unemotional.[37] Television coverage of NRL matches typically involves some footage of the coach's box at crucial points of the match whereby the coaches more often than not will reflect the on field status quo. Bennett, however, will normally be shown sternly and intensely watching the game, without any real signs of emotion irrespective of the events unfolding.

Bennett has stated that he detests the media commitments required as head coach of a high-profile football team.[38] Although on occasions he will happily give in-depth interviews, he has also been known to act with hostility towards the press, avoiding questions, starting press conferences early and at times simply refusing to answer. This behaviour has in some parts[who?] attracted sharp criticism although has been defended in other parts of the Rugby League community, in particular by former NSW coach and Nine Network personality Phil Gould.

Bennett coached the Brisbane Broncos for 21 consecutive years, since their first season. Under his leadership they were the most successful side, winning six premierships and never losing a grand final. It is unusual for a coach to remain at one club for so long and maintain success. The salary cap system in Australian rugby league makes it difficult to maintain a strong squad for long periods, although the Brisbane Broncos were fined five times for salary cap breaches during Bennett's tenure in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2007.[39] Additionally the Thoroughbreds, a group of high-profile Queensland businessmen setup with Bennett, provide support to Broncos players and is not subject to salary cap restrictions.[40]

Personal life

Bennett's brother Bob Bennett has also coached rugby league at international level with the Papua New Guinea team.[41]

File:Wayne Bennett dont die with the music in you.jpg
The cover of Bennett's acclaimed[42] 2002 memoir, Don't die with the music in you.

With journalist Steve Crawley he wrote Don't Die with the Music in You whose title refers to a quote from the American intellectual Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. regarding failure to meet one's potential. The likes of Steve Waugh, Lachlan Murdoch, David Gallop, John Singleton and Jack Gibson attended the book's launch at the Australian Museum in Sydney on 7 May 2002.[43][44] It has become one of the best selling books about rugby league in Australia's history (ISBN 0-7333-1107-5, ABC Books Australia). It went on to sell over 100,000 copies.[45]

Bennett has also written a weekly column in The Australian. His second book, The man in the mirror was released in November 2008, soon after the New Zealand Kiwis' World Cup victory.



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  42. Tom Smithies "Culina sings to Bennett's tune" (14 September 2007) The Daily Telegraph
  43. http://www.aapimage.com.au/Search.aspx?search=%22WAYNE+BENNETT+BOOK+LAUNCH%22&viewtype=Grid
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Further reading

External links

Sporting positions
Preceded by
Don Furner
Canberra Raiders co-coach
Succeeded by
Tim Sheens
Preceded by
Brisbane Broncos coach
Succeeded by
Ivan Henjak
Preceded by
Nathan Brown
St George Illawarra Dragons coach
Succeeded by
Steve Price
Preceded by
Rick Stone
Newcastle Knights coach
Succeeded by
Rick Stone
Preceded by
Anthony Griffin
Brisbane Broncos coach
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Des Morris
Queensland coach
Succeeded by
Arthur Beetson
Preceded by
Paul Vautin
Queensland coach
Succeeded by
Mark Murray
Preceded by
Mark Murray
Queensland coach
Succeeded by
Michael Hagan
Preceded by
Queensland Tri-Series coach
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Bob Fulton
Australia coach
Succeeded by
Chris Anderson
Preceded by
Chris Anderson
Australia coach
Succeeded by
Ricky Stuart