James Bentley’s discipline was far too prevalent a topic for Leeds throughout 2022. Signed from St Helens at the start of last season, Bentley started on the wrong foot, getting red carded in the Rhinos’ season opener against Warrington at Headingley.
Disciplinary issues dogged the forward throughout the first part of the season. That said, the second half of the season proved to be a completely different story, with few players, if any, improving more under new Rhinos head coach Rohan Smith. Bentley channelled his discipline into his game and started to look like the player Leeds thought they had signed from the reigning Champions, as he remained on the pitch and helped the Rhinos reach the Grand Final.
However, recent reports have been circulating of the ugly side of Bentley’s discipline rearing its head once again, this time off the field. Reports in the Sydney Morning Herald claim the 25-year-old, who represented Ireland at the World Cup, reportedly confronted Shaun Wane about his absence from the England squad, before a subsequent altercation broke out between Bentley and England forward Victor Radley. The reports suggest Radley headbutted the Leeds forward at some point during their disagreement, with the RFL confirming that they will be investigating the incident.
This has reportedly forced Leeds hand in offering Bentley to NRL clubs, with an unnamed coach down under telling WWOS “there’s no doubt he can play, but his discipline is his undoing”. He did continue though by suggesting “someone will take a risk on him”, so with that in mind and if the reports of the Rhinos trying to offload Bentley are true, we have predicted where in Australia he may end up.
The NRL’s newest addition have been very active ahead of their debut at the top table of Australian rugby league. Notable names pulling on a red jersey for 2023 include the Bromwich Brothers, Jesse and Kenny, World Cup Finalist Anthony Milford, and Kiwi Kodi Nikorima. He would join former foe Oliver Gildart, who himself has joined for 2023 from Wests Tigers. Importantly, Bentley would be working under Wayne Bennett, the former England and Great Britain coach, as well as recently departed St Helens boss Kristian Woolf, should Bentley stay the course. Two coaches experienced with getting the best out of Super League players at the helm could be a real draw for Bentley, as they could set him on a better path in the long term, not just on the pitch, but off it too. Particularly with the Dolphins coming into a new division, expectations may not to be particularly high for their maiden year, and that could potentially help Bentley transition to the harder hits of the NRL. With some of the world class artillery that would be around him, it looks on paper to potentially be a very positive move for the Leeds-born forward. The question is though, will they take a chance on him? They have big room on the salary cap, but Woolf in particular may warn his new club against the move.
Last year’s wooden spoon side, the Tigers, will be looking for a massive upturn in form this coming year. They have in place a similar plan to the Dolphins in terms of the boss in the hotseat, with the experienced Tim Sheens holding down the fort for a couple of years before Benji Marshall takes the reins in 2025. The Tigers will be looking to build from the ground up, and Bentley could be the perfect man to lead it. An experienced coach at the helm to aid him on and off the pitch, and the prospect of a Wests second-row combination of James Bentley and John Bateman, with the Wigan Warriors star heavily linked, is one that will make for a lot of exciting match ups in the NRL next season.
The Raiders seem to know better than most how to nurture their Super League imports, with the likes of Josh Hodgson, John Bateman and Elliott Whitehead all proving big successes for the green machine. Bentley and Whitehead would be a formidable second-row pairing, and Bentley would have a lot of freedom to express himself with a fellow Super League alumni on the other side to help him into the Australian game. Whitehead is also Canberra’s captain, and he could really take Bentley under his wing to ensure this talented forward makes the most out of his career. Numerous Super League players have blossomed at the Raiders, and it could be a great place for Bentley to do the same. He has many similar characteristics to Bateman, a player Canberra head coach Ricky Stuart was able to get the very best out of during his time in the Australian capital, and you just get the feeling that he could do the same with Bentley. Stuart is a vastly experienced coach, like the ones previously mentioned, and he has a good habit of improving the attitude and focus of players that are easily led astray – Bentley certainly falls under that category.