Badel: Broncos can’t stuff up Bennett exit
WAYNE Bennett has earned the right to a contract extension at the Broncos.
Whether the board gives it to him has set the scene for one of the most complex, and potentially explosive, chapters in Brisbane's glittering history.
Brisbane's failed pursuit of Storm coach Craig Bellamy has triggered a fascinating, internal power play where the Broncos board must assess the 68-year-old Bennett against the magical ghosts of the master coach who has delivered every premiership that sits in the club's flash new foyer.
Is Bennett past it? Can he handle the NRL coaching furnace at 70? Has he got the dressing room? Is there a better coach to replace him?
These are the questions the Broncos board must answer in the coming weeks and months.
Brisbane have had many wonderful players but they have only had one great coach. Bennett has engineered all six premierships. He has helped build the club's values and DNA.
It will take a brave board to sack him … and if they pull the trigger, the timing must be right.
Timing is everything in rugby league. And rarely are NRL clubs in a static state. They are either formidably on the rise or hurtling toward a toxic, drastic fall.
Wherever you look at Red Hill, love them or hate them, the Broncos are on the rise.
If the Broncos board plays the ball - not the man - they would find it difficult to table a reasonable argument that explains why Bennett should not be handed a new deal to coach Brisbane in 2020.
By virtue of his gravitas, ego and impervious self-belief, Bennett will never win popularity contests.
He can be seen as selfish and selfless in equal parts but there is currently no other coach on the market better positioned and better skilled to put together the pieces of a premiership jigsaw that is close to coming together at Red Hill.
Right now, there is only one other person in the NRL that could coach the Broncos as expertly as Bennett. That man is Bellamy - and he's now committed for the long haul at Melbourne.
Since his return to the Broncos in 2015, Bennett has won 63 of 98 games for a 64 per cent success rate. They were one tackle away from a premiership victory in his comeback year and are on track for a fourth consecutive playoffs appearance this season.
During that time, Bennett and his development team, including recruitment chief Peter Nolan, have assembled the club's best batch of forward products in 20 years.
Bennett may be a grandfather but he still has pulling power. Tevita Pangai Jr left Canberra to play under him. Prop sensation Payne Haas said being mentored by Bennett was the major factor behind his decision to ink a five-year extension last week.
Player power has sparked the demise of many NRL coaches … yet there is no smell of a player-driven revolt against Bennett.
Without any discernible evidence of incompetence on Bennett's part, the ball now falls into the court of a Broncos board already under pressure following the botched Bellamy raid.
New Broncos chairman "Silent" Karl Morris has refused several requests to talk to the media, a silence that has fuelled a deafening paranoia from Bennett, who suspects one final contract won't be coming.
No one likes the desecration of an icon. Bennett has his haters but his coaching record is peerless. If Brisbane's board mismanage his exit, the blood on their hands will change the fabric of the great club Bennett helped create.