Welcome to From The Terraces, the weekly column where I choose a hot topic within the rugby league community, and discuss my opinions. This week I debate whether Wayne Bennett is the right man for the England job.
Wayne Bennett is just nine months into his role as England coach. However, this Sunday the Australian will face his homeland, in what many are already considering a must win game for the current Brisbane Broncos coach. So far, Bennett has been in charge for three games. His first was down at the Parc des Sports in Avignon, were his wall of white took on France in a Test Match. In what was a slow start, Bennett’s men started to take shape and ran out 40-6 winners.
After an experimental opener, where many fringe players got a chance to stake their case for the upcoming Four Nations, it was tough to say if they stood a chance. However, as Bennett announced his squad for the opening game against New Zealand, it was only then you started to see a Wayne Bennett side take shape. England would go on to lose 17-16 to New Zealand in what was a nip and tuck game, right till the end. However, after the game you couldn’t help but feel more disappointed than proud of the England efforts. They had such a good start to the game, but made too many mistakes throughout to give New Zealand a way back in.
After the game, England coach Wayne Bennett had this to say:
“I’m disappointed in the result but not the effort. The difference was a little bit of smarts. Everything else was there.”
“Things have come a long way,” Bennett said. “You’ve got to remember that we’ve just had two weeks together.”
The week following this game, Bennett was in for some real criticism from the English media, mainly towards his lack of effort during interviews and press conferences. Stating that if he’s like this with the fans and the press, how does he manage to get his team up for games. Now, it’s a very strange situation, because not everyone is comfortable talking to press, and there are a lot of coaches throughout the world of sport who would agree. For me, as a fan, it doesn’t bother me how he responds during interviews and press conferences. He’s there to coach the players and lead them to victory.
This past weekend was Bennett’s third game in charge, when for the first time in their history, England and Scotland met. Many were expecting a huge score line in favour of England, and therefore setting up a straight knock-out game with Australia the following week. However, after 25 minutes, England trailed 8-0 to an inspired Scotland side, who were quite frankly outplaying the Bennett’s outfit. In the second half, England started to play some rugby and eventually ran away as 36-12 winners.
Yet again, Wayne Bennett was in for some criticism from the English press, some stating that he wasn’t the right man for the job, which after just three games in charge, is a ludicrous statement. Most the criticism was again, due to his interviews and press conferences. It bemuses me as to why they would question such an experienced man who has won so much in his career, with his style of coaching and dealings with the press.
This week, Wayne Bennett hit back at his critics, saying this:
“I’m not interested in talk; talk is cheap and I’m not interested in thinking I can promote the game by something I say.
“I started coaching in 1977 and they were bagging me then, and nothing’s changed in 2016.”
Bennett hit back, and hit back well in my opinion. The press does not realise they are adding so much unneeded pressure not only on the Australian, but the England players as well, who know they aren’t performing well enough for their new coach. If they wish to make the Four Nations final, this week’s game against Australia is a must win for England.
But is it a must win for Wayne Bennett’s future?
I don’t believe that this game is a must win for Wayne Bennett in the aspect of his future as England manager. When he signed on to become the next coach, it was a two-year deal. Not only that, but it would be a huge mistake for England if they were to release him from his contract so prematurely. Many ex-players argued that letting Steve McNamara go was a huge mistake, and that he should’ve been given more time. We will be having the same conversation this time next year if they do the same with Wayne Bennett.
It’s a great opportunity for not only the current group of England players and coaches, but also English rugby league to have such an experienced man, who has been in the NRL for so many years, at the top of his game, to come over here and take control of our national side. The whole setup will learn so much from this great man and I honestly believe he is the right man for the job going forward, no matter what happens this Saturday against Australia.
This concludes the first edition of From The Terraces. Please feel free to let me know your thoughts on Wayne Bennett, and his future as England coach below.