Wayne Bennett whacks Felise Kaufusi over Dolphins star’s ugly act

Felise Kaufusi's latest NRL suspension has left Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett at a loss.

·3-min read
Wayne Bennett says it is crucial that Felise Kaufusi avoids suspension for the rest of the NRL season, after copping a three-game ban. Pictures: Getty Images
Wayne Bennett says it is crucial that Felise Kaufusi avoids suspension for the rest of the NRL season, after copping a three-game ban. Pictures: Getty Images

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett has publicly implored Felise Kaufusi to reign in his penchant for ill-disciplined acts, after the second-rower copped a three match ban for a swinging shot on Reece Walsh over the weekend. Kaufusi has subsequently been ruled out of Origin I, but Bennett was more miffed that he won't be available during the Dolphins' first representative period as the expansion club looks to cling to their spot in the top eight.

Bennett was left unhappy with Kaufusi, lamenting his upcoming absence during a crucial stretch for the Dolphins after their strong early showings in their debut NRL season. The veteran head coach revealed he had held a number of conversations with the 31-year-old about his aggressiveness on the field.

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Convinced it wasn't an issue with Kaufusi's tackling technique, Bennett openly questioned whether the back-rower had taken anything out of their conversations after his latest suspension. It was an extraordinary comment from Bennett, who said that rules existed in rugby league for a reason.

“That’s the way the game is and that’s the way it should be,” Bennett said. “It has always been the game and some guys just get it out of kilter sometimes.

“He is going to have to keep it himself to play within that framework of the game. You can be aggressive in the game, but you can’t do the things that are going to put you before the judiciary.

"That is being over-aggressive and that’s not what the game is about. I have had a few chats, but you know I would say, has he listened to them?”

Kaufusi was rubbed out for four games earlier in the season for a late and high shot on Newcastle's Jackson Hastings. The 31-year-old was set to be picked for the Maroons for the series opener in Adelaide on May 31 but the nature of the hit on Welch, combined with his record counted against him.

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Queelsland coach Billy Slater said he would speak to Kaufusi before deciding whether to consider him for selection. "I thought it was a silly act," Slater said on Nine's Sunday Footy Show.

"We'll just have to wait and see over the next 24 hours what Felise wants to do. Whether he wants to fight it and make himself eligible for selection."

If Kaufusi is ruled out, it will likely open the door for David Fifita to return to the Maroons team either on the bench or in the second row. Fifita impressed in the Titans' win over the Bulldogs, scoring one try and setting up another.

Felise Kaufusi puts an arm around Dolphins teammate Tom Gilbert.
Felise Kaufusi has been a key player for the Dolphins this season, but his campaign has been hampered by suspensions. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Back in April, Bennett had backed Kaufusi's style after he could have accepted a three-game ban but decided to try - and ultimately failed - to have his grade-two charge downgraded to a grade-one for his hit on Newcastle's Jackson Hastings. If Kaufusi was successful in downgrading the charge, he would have escaped with a $3000 fine and no suspension.

Many NRL fans and journalists were quick to pan the judiciary's verdict, labelling it "incredibly poor" and questioning the consistency of the panel.

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