OPINION | Brisbane Broncos' removal of Wayne Bennett puts smile on diehard fan's dial

Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins
Picture: AAP Image/Dean Lewins

I personally know one person glad to see Wayne Bennett’s days at the Broncos surely over for good, after premiership highs and acrimonious lows.

As Queensland as Flo Bjelke-Petersen’s pumpkin scones, and a diehard Broncos fan since the club’s inception, my mother’s enmity for Bennett began when he left the club in 2008 to mentor St George Illawarra.

“He walked out on the Broncos to coach a bloody cockroach team, of all teams,” she said. “I couldn’t believe it. None of us could. From then on I didn’t like him.”

It didn’t matter that he purportedly walked before being pushed – his “traitor” status, in mum’s eyes, confirmed when he became England coach in 2016. 

And when he left his wife of 42 years for a woman 16 years his junior, she mined a deeper level of disgust: “He’s unscrupulous. I don’t like his values.”

Her opinion of Bennett may be a more extreme one among Broncos fans, although I suspect that there weren’t many tears over his sacking on Sunday.

I wish him well. Much has been made of his wretched relationship with the media.

But I have only fond memories of him, although they relate to a long-ago time. It was before the club won a premiership, when, for instance, an end-of-season press conference was called to, the media expected, announce Bennett’s sacking (instead, he got a lengthy contract extension).  

The subsequent years appear to have worsened his relationship with the media, but, really, that isn’t surprising: he has stood under that intense glare for so long, News Corps’ attack dogs, of which I was one, snapping at him.

I was 19 years old when I first met him, at a press conference at Broncos headquarters. My left eye was swollen shut. I felt sorry for myself. I was nervous.

“I’d hate to see the other guy,” he said, smiling.

Those were the first words he spoke to me, and I felt better.

For three years, while working for an afternoon newspaper, I regularly called him at 6am. He was always professional.

Years later, he brought the Broncos to Perth to play the Reds. When he first saw me, he said I had filled out nicely. It made me feel good. 

The respected sports journalist Wayne Heming said of Bennett’s sacking: “It is a sad way for the club to end their successful relationship with a man who gave them so much.”

I believe that Bennett, at age 67, has another premiership in him, and so does his new club, Souths. 

Mark Bode is a Fairfax journalist