Bennett is in demand for 2021. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.
Bennett is in demand for 2021. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.

Kent: Not even Wayne can coach a miracle

Wayne Bennett is about to have the busiest schedule in the NRL.

According to latest numbers, Bennett will coach the Warriors next season on Mondays and Thursdays, the Dragons on Fridays and Tuesdays, and Canterbury every third week.

It is not quite a full schedule, Wednesday being a day of rest, but as the game's most senior coach and a proven premiership winner Bennett has been linked to every team now fighting for premiership credibility.

Their strategy seems to be hope more than a solid plan.

Bennett could save a lot of clubs a little trouble if they listened to just a simple piece of advice he picked up when he was a young coach teaching Moses how to go through the middle.

Bennett's most important lesson came when he taught himself the discipline that picking players based on talent was the fast-track to unemployment.

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The trick to coaching, he realised, was knowing who you could win with. Talent alone is dangerous for the inexperienced coach.

Talent is a seduction, a temptress.

Stephen Kearney got sacked as Warriors coach on Saturday morning. The stunning decision saw Kearney swoop past Paul McGregor, Dean Pay, Paul Green and John Morris as the first coach to be sacked this season.

Broncos coach Anthony Seibold is apparently safe but possibly in the biggest struggle of all.

The coaching lottery currently taking up a third of the competition has revealed just how little some clubs know about the art of assembling a premiership winning roster.

The Warriors - and not Kearney - historically have no idea. In 25 years the club has no premierships against two grand final appearances, which came about more because the Warriors got hot and rolled through on momentum than any grand plan.

Morris is being quietly undermined at his club despite inheriting a notoriously difficult team, under salary cap restrictions.

Kearney is the first coach to be sacked in 2020. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.
Kearney is the first coach to be sacked in 2020. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.

Yet Sharks powerbrokers have seemingly absolved themselves of any part in the club's performance.

Morris had no authority when much of this current Sharks' list was assembled yet his club's solution to it all is to replace the coach.

Any chance of a plan at all?

Few head offices are willing to admit their part in the club's struggle, happy to shop the coach if it means keeping their blazers remain freshly steamed and ironed.

Coaches do not get into roster trouble all by themselves.

Pay, for example, replaced a sacked coach. It is reasonable to believe part of the reason the previous coach, Des Hasler, was sacked was because the roster was not strong enough to save Hasler the axe.

Pay inherited the players that got Hasler sacked. And the salary cap problems that make the problem slow to fix.

So, by default, Pay has to reinvigorate the roster.

Yet three seasons in Pay is under assault and, with the club back in control of its salary cap next season, some Bulldogs powerbrokers now quietly wonder if Pay is the man to go forward.

Pay is under serious pressure. AAP Image/David Neilson.
Pay is under serious pressure. AAP Image/David Neilson.

What chance has he truly had?

While it is a new board, and a new chief executive, is it all Pay's fault?

There is a cycle some clubs are reluctant to admit.

A coach is sacked because he has an underperforming roster.

The new coach inherits that roster.

Most contracts in the game are about three years in length, which makes it about three years before a coach can begin to claim his results are entirely his doing.

Not every coach's problems are the same, the same as not every roster resembles a premiership winning roster.

Wests Tigers coach Michael Maguire knows what it takes to win premierships.

He delivered South Sydney their first premiership in 43 years.

Maguire took a step towards that with the Tigers last week when he released Corey Thompson to the Gold Coast. It was a curious decision for some.

Bennett’s track record is what fuels demand. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.
Bennett’s track record is what fuels demand. AAP Image/Dan Himbrechts.

Thompson was the Tigers' player's player last season. It suggested not just talent but a player valued by teammates, and some like Parramatta second-rower Ryan Matterson questioned Maguire's decision to release him.

But Maguire knows how to build a premiership-winning roster and, given you can't have all the toys under a salary cap, believes he traded up when he replaced Thompson in his roster with Adam Doueihi.

Bennett's appeal is the seven premierships that testify to his ability to know what a premiership-winning roster looks like.

For similar reasons, Craig Bellamy and Trent Robinson are also valued, although unavailable to the struggling clubs.

Could any of them save some of these battling clubs?

Not quickly.

Originally published as Kent: Not even Wayne can coach a miracle



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