Bennett returns to haunt Broncos as rivalry finally emerges

Just when the Broncos thought Wayne Bennett was out, the Dolphins pull him back in. Now the coaching Godfather is set to emerge from the shadows once more in a revenge plot that is gripping even by rugby league’s lofty standards.

The deal is yet to be finalised but Redcliffe have made Bennett an offer he can’t refuse. Not content with starting one club in the Queensland capital, Bennett will now have the keys to another as he shapes the newest franchise in the NRL and gives the Broncos a direct rival for the first time since the ill-fated Crushers in the mid-90s.

Wayne Bennett arrives for a meeting at the Redcliffe Leagues Club on Friday.Credit:Getty

It’s all set to a backdrop of Bennett’s messy and acrimonious departure from Red Hill in late 2018, before he headed south to join the Rabbitohs and take them to within a whisker of a premiership. That was vindication of the old master’s powers and the Dolphins have secured a signature far more valuable than any star player they may add to their roster.

Bennett will likely avoid all talk of the Broncos when he is officially revealed by The Dolphins. But you only had to see him reach behind the desk and unleash the flame thrower on his former employer during the recent finals series to realise how badly it all still burns.

“I will say publicly, they [Brisbane] undermined me in their conversations with Souths. They didn’t do a little job on me, they did the best job they possibly could,” Bennett said after the Rabbitohs booked their spot in the decider against Penrith.

“If I want to coach, I’ll be a coach. I learned that as a young coach, about when you should retire or not retire. Because I worked with a coach who didn’t have the ambition and the passion for it. But I’m not at that stage.”

Wayne Bennett looks set to be the inaugural coach for the Dolphins.Credit:Getty

How Brisbane, where Bennett’s son-in-law Ben Ikin is now a the director of football, engage publicly when the Dolphins emerge in 2023 will be fascinating. You can be guaranteed a derby at Suncorp Stadium will kick off the season and the mind games will hit overdrive.

But one-upping the Broncos won’t be Bennett’s main motivation, according to Redcliffe product and former Bronco Brent Tate, who believes the prolific premiership winner will simply relish the challenge of putting the pillars in place of the NRL’s freshest franchise.

“It will add some spice, no doubt. But I’m not sure he needs that sort of extra motivation. He will want to make it a success on his own terms. He’s very proud of his success at Souths and he’s shown everyone he can still coach,” Tate said.

“I just know he’d want to be a success from the start and build it properly from the ground up. Wayne has never done anything half-hearted, he always does things to be the best. That’s what drives him.

“He’d have a huge motivation to do this … for a lot of people this would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity but he gets to do it twice in the one city. He knows what’s required. He already knows how he wants the team to look, how to play, so that tells me he’s ready to get to work.”

The ultimate early blow for Bennett would be to pilfer some players from the Broncos early in the life of the Dolphins and Tate says it’s not just Brisbane that should be watching their back from player raids. From the start, Tate insists, the Dolphins will be a destination club.

“If you are a player on the market – I grew up around there – you get a chance to live in south-east Queensland, you get a chance to be part of a great club, with Wayne Bennett as a coach, there aren’t too many boxes it’s not going to tick.

“For any player to be coached by Wayne, look at Souths again this year, if any player worth his salt doesn’t want to spent time under Wayne Bennett, you’d be mad. It’s the most important appointment they could have made.

“The truth is every club is going to be looking over their shoulder now. To have the chance to be there from the start and set culture and standards, that’s something that is very special. It’s a wonderful opportunity for everyone involved.”

Unlike the Broncos, Bennett isn’t tasked with building something from nothing at Redcliffe. The club is already in place, along with its junior base and a stable administration. Tate said that will leave Bennett to focus purely on the football, which in turn should have the rest of the NRL on red alert.

“He’s not building a club. They are a wonderful club, you won’t find a club more embedded in the community. So this will be an extension of that, a really important extension. I think this will be incredible.”

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