Wayne Bennett was nearly sprung by two South Sydney favourites. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty
Wayne Bennett was nearly sprung by two South Sydney favourites. Picture: Mark Metcalfe/Getty

Bennett nearly busted breaking NRL promise

So much for coaching solidarity.

Rabbitohs coach Wayne Bennett was in Wednesday's meeting of the Innovation Committee where Wayne Pearce reinforced the strict biosecurity controls that will be implemented once players return to training on May 4.

Yet, in a twist only rugby league can provide, a night earlier two of Bennett's favourite players nearly gave up the game when they revealed the Rabbitohs were planning to come together a full week earlier, on April 27.

The only way it can be explained is that Bennett must not have been paying attention in the Innovation Committee meetings, where Pearce has been manic about the need to adhere to their strict precautions.

The Rabbitohs were planning to get their squad together a week ahead of their rivals teams for "testing". It seemed odd.

Given the complications around New Zealand's return to Australia and government imposed isolation the clubs had all agreed not bring the players together until May 4.

This, it appeared, would be the earliest the Warriors could assemble and, in a rare show of solidarity, the clubs agreed not to gather before then so it would not disadvantage the Warriors.

Then news first surfaced a week ago that the Rabbitohs were looking to break the agreement.

Former Rabbitoh Sam Burgess mentioned on Fox League Live the Rabbitohs would be returning to training next Monday - a full week before all the clubs had agreed to return.


Damien Cook. Picture: Justin Lloyd
Damien Cook. Picture: Justin Lloyd


Burgess could well have been mistaken, but it caused a few ears to prick among coaches around the league.

Then he followed it up on Fox League Live on Tuesday. Later in the show Rabbitoh Damien Cook was interviewed and in response to Burgess's news Cook tried to douse the story by claiming the Rabbitohs were going in for "testing".

It also caught Penrith coach Ivan Cleary by surprise, who came on after Cook and said: "As far as we know training starts on May 4. But if we are allowed to get the guys back in, if other clubs do that, I suppose we will."

Thankfully, the NRL intervened.

Perhaps aware of the loose interpretation as to what constitutes "training" and what constitutes "testing", NRL integrity unit boss Nick Weeks told the clubs during a phone hook-up Wednesday that if clubs gathered for training the strict distancing protocols - no more than two people allowed to gather - would still be in place.

"One trainer means one athlete," Weeks said.

And any club that broke that would risk losing competition points when the season resumed, Weeks warned.

The coaches were warned again on Thursday in a phone hook-up which, with more than a little irony, preached the need for coaches to stick together as they try to get their union up and running.




Originally published as Bennett nearly busted breaking NRL promise