Wayne Bennett could have hung NRL his coaching boots up years ago and still be considered one of the best men to have held a clip board. It seemed like he’d never even consider coaching another NRL team during his 21 years as head of the Brisbane outfit.
His value as a coach seemed set in stone when he left the Broncos and led the Dragons to a premiership in 2010. So it wasn’t really a big surprise when Nathan Tinkler secured his services for the Newcastle Knights 2012 season.
But things didn’t look bright for the super coach in the early part of this year, with the Knights going through an up and down opening ten weeks winning 4 and losing 6, which rolled on to become a four match losing streak broken only by two bye rounds before things started to come right with a win over the Tigers.
But it they were going through a rebuilding phase, and any coach could expect some teething problems to begin with. Some might say it was to be expected, and that the side would improve gradually as the year went on. Which could be what we’re witnessing now.
Since the round 16 win over Wests they have won five from six games, including victories over both of last year’s grand finalists. One of which was a 32 to 6 hiding they dished out to the Seas Eagles. The side is certainly showing signs that Bennett’s characteristic belief in his team and himself is starting to take effect.
It should have been a given that it would take some time for Bennett to have really have an effect on the side. Having to rebuild a winning attitude in a team that has struggled in recent times wouldn’t be an easy job, even for a coach that many consider the best there is, or has been.
But there are signs that things are changing. Players that have served under Bennett all talk about his closeness with his players and the belief that he instills in them. A team that can pull themselves out of a slump, especially the way they did against the Warriors when down by 18 points, must have learnt to hold their nerve and keep their heads in the game. With traits like that, the Knights could be on track to becoming a dominant team in the NRL once again.
Bennett builds clubs as much as he coaches teams. His book ‘The Man In The Mirror’ showed how important aspects such as loyalty, and the future and welfare of his club are to him as a person as well as professional.
The Knights have started to look more like a Wayne Bennett coached team lately. But all that will be put to the test over the last few rounds of the competition with games against the Bulldogs, Sharks, Manly, Cowboys, and South Sydney. If they can make it through that line up and grab a spot in the top eight, both Bennett and his team will have done a stellar job.
With Bennett’s record it’s certainly on the cards.