Dolphins' grim Wayne Bennett reality amid Tigers ref uproar : Good, bad, ugly of NRL round 9

The actions of Tigers players towards a female referee have come under fire.

😃 The good: Wayne Bennett effect inspires depleted Dolphins

😔 The bad: Michael Ennis' head-scratching take on Tom Trbojevic

😡 The ugly: Angry Tigers players confronting NRL referee Kasey Badger

The Dolphins have done most things right just a season and a bit into their existence. They've been competitive on the field and equally as strong off it, building strong fan and corporate support. And the centrepiece for much of their early success can be put down to one man – Wayne James Bennett AM.

But here's where the Dolphins may have dropped the ball – big time. Watching the severely undermanned Dolphins outlast the Cowboys in Townsville on Saturday was further proof Bennett still has it after all these years. Missing up to half a dozen frontline players against a desperate home side, the veteran coach masterminded one of the season's great upsets.

Wayne Bennett helped mastermind a brilliant win for the injury-hit Dolphins away to North Queensland in round nine of the NRL. Pic: Getty
Wayne Bennett helped mastermind a brilliant win for the injury-hit Dolphins away to North Queensland in round nine of the NRL. Pic: Getty

He will walk out the door at the end of the year – most likely to rejoin Souths – to leave Kristian Woolf in charge from 2025. There is no doubt Woolf can coach and the plan for him to succeed Bennett was put in place a long time ago.

The Dolphins had hoped – or presumed – Bennett would be happy taking on a director of coaching role. That was never going to happen. Bennett will coach into his 80s if he has his way. Backroom roles are not his go. Given most clubs go south when Wayne exits, the Dolphins may live to regret not leaving the door open for him to continue in the top job.

We know Mick Ennis is on the Manly payroll and is naturally supportive of the players he deals with on an almost daily basis. And that's fair enough. But he forced us into a double take this week after declaring Tom Trbojevic the best fullback in rugby league.


"I know people will go 'what about Reece Walsh and Kalyn Ponga?' but Tom Trbojevic is the best fullback in the game," Ennis told Fox League. "He's one of the best players I've ever seen and worked with."

Turbo is a brilliant player and, on his day, a genuine match winner. There is not much he can’t do when he's on. But if you're looking at No.1s who have a greater impact on their team's results, you'd have both Walsh and Ponga ahead of him at the moment.

James Tedesco and Dylan Edwards are in the same category. Then there's Clint Gutherson, does a massive amount of work either side of the ball, while Josh Drinkwater and Will Kennedy are two of the NRL's big improvers.

Even Manly fans – the honest ones, anyway – will admit Trbojevic is among the top three or four fullbacks but not top of the list. Ask yourself this question: If your team was after a fullback and the players mentioned above were all available, who would you choose? We thought so.

There’s not too many things rugby league can pluck from rugby union, but respect for referees is one. Kasey Badger had a shocker in the Dogs-Tigers game on Saturday and there is no escaping that fact. She had a number of decisions overturned by the bunker and lost control at various times.

Tigers fans - the ones who didn’t stoop to sexist taunts to make their point - were fully within their rights to express their frustration. Badger had an off day and will return better for the experience.

But the behaviour of several Tigers players didn’t help her cause. A number of them, headed by hot head David Klemmer, spent half the game angrily confronting the rookie ref. It was a very poor look. In rugby only the captain is allowed to address the referee.

Seen here, Wests Tigers forward John Bateman in a heated conversation with NRL referee Kasey Badger.
Wests Tigers forward John Bateman is seen in a heated conversation with NRL referee Kasey Badger during the game against the Bulldogs. Pic: Getty

It’s one voice and one voice only and the dialogue is almost universally respectful. It used to be that way in league until we went all South American soccer and let players foam at the mouth and wave their arms around at just about every decision. Start sin-binning players who remonstrate and you won't have to wait long to see player behaviour improve.

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