Wayne Bennett lashes out in baffling presser ahead of NRL Magic Round
The master coach was in no mood to talk about his personal achievement.
Master coach Wayne Bennett has threatened to walk out of a press conference in the build-up to Magic Round after he was questioned on his milestone 900th game in charge of an NRL club this weekend. Bennett will coach the Dolphins against the Sharks on Saturday evening at Suncorp stadium.
The match will be his 900th in charge at NRL level. The 73-year-old has a remarkable 62.5 per cent winning rate and seven premierships to add to his success.
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While many will be ready to celebrate the veteran's milestone game, the man himself was not one of them. Ahead of the game against the Sharks, Bennett threatened to walk out of the Friday press conference if he was asked any more questions about his milestone.
“We either change the subject or I just move on,” Bennett said during the media opportunity. “I’m not talking about my achievements, what I’ve done and haven’t done.
“You’ve written about them, had an opinion on them. We’ve all had enough of it.” And Bennett meant it.
A reporter raised the subject of his milestone again and Bennett doubled down on his threat. “Oh, we’re talking about me again?” he said.
“I’ll be clear then. If you want to talk about the team and players, that’s fine. But if you want to talk about me I’ll just have to leave the conference.”
While he wasn't too happy to make the game about himself, Bennett did admit he never thought he would end up an NRL coach before switching careers. “I never thought about being a coach,” he said.
“It’s not something I wanted to do and I’m still not sure if I want to be a coach. I found myself doing it and I’m still doing it today.” Bennett said he had coached close to 180 games in Brisbane before he went to the NRL with his record close to 1,080.
Valynce Te Whare to make NRL debut
During the press conference, Bennett confirmed Valynce Te Whare, nicknamed 'Val Meninga' by fans, will make his NRL debut in the centres. Bennett said he had renamed the bulky centre 'Val Smith', but that came as a surprise to the journalists.
The reporters told Bennett of the fans' nickname for Te Whare and the coach was in agreement. "Val Meninga. I like that line," Bennett continued.
"I saw that the other day and I thought, 'What are the similarities between him and Mal Meninga?' I coached Mal. He is a great player and a great guy. I thought the only similarity was his shorts. I reckon they are both the same size. He is no Mal Meninga, I can tell you that."
Te Whare comes into the side for the injured Brenko Lee (hamstring). His achievement to play NRL one year after taking up the game is remarkable.
"It is a credit to him. There's been a few bumps along the road," Bennett said. Keeping his 108kg frame in check has been a challenge, but Bennett said the 22-year-old had worked hard before he "lost his way".
"He explained that to me pretty well. He said he stopped eating breakfast and put on weight," Bennett said.
"That is what I am dealing with. I just looked at him in amazement and said, 'You better go back to eating breakfast'."
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