Archive for August, 2019

Bennett cagey on rumours of a move

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Nothing settled: Wayne Bennett was his usual elusive self when he fronted the media. Photo: Darren PatemanKnights coach Wayne Bennett has knocked back an opportunity to reaffirm his commitment to Newcastle for the last two years of his four-year contract.

Bennett’s future remains the subject of speculation in the lead-up to Newcastle’s preliminary final against the Sydney Roosters at Allianz Stadium on Saturday night, despite assurances from Knights chief executive Matt Gidley that he will remain at the club until the end of 2015. ”Look, I’ve got no control over that, so I don’t worry about it,” Bennett told the media after overseeing training on Wednesday, when asked about that speculation.

But when asked if he was staying in Newcastle for the next two years, honouring the commitment he gave Knights owner Nathan Tinkler in April 2011, Bennett said: ”Look, I can’t give you an iron-clad guarantee about anything in this game, so right now, I’m the coach here, and when that changes, I’ll let you know.”

Fairfax Media reported on Wednesday that Bennett was still being linked to a possible move to Townsville to take up a role with the North Queensland Cowboys, or a return to Brisbane to rejoin the Broncos, but Gidley said the seven-time premiership-winning coach was staying put. ”I’ve spoken to him about that – he’s not going anywhere,” Gidley said. ”We’ve put a lot of work in to get some of these players here. We bought players who want to play under Wayne and play for Wayne and improve on his watch.

”He’s not going to let these guys down. Wayne is extremely loyal. I don’t laugh at [the speculation] or buy into it. Whenever there’s instability at the Broncos, Wayne’s name will be mentioned as a possible solution. He built the place there and had wonderful success there. I understand that. But I think he’s excited about what we’re trying to do here.”

Bennett told the media after training on Wednesday that the Knights would not be within one win of a grand final without Tinkler’s intervention and involvement. ”I made a statement after the game [against the Storm last Saturday] – I was interviewed in Melbourne the other night – that without Nathan doing what he’d done, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

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Manly have faith: club anxious to secure favourite son Toovey for long haul

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

In for the long haul: Manly are keen to extend Geoff Toovey’s time at Brookvale Oval. Photo: Quentin JonesManly are poised to start contract extension discussions with coach Geoff Toovey in a huge show of faith leading into their grand final qualifier against South Sydney.

Toovey is signed until the end of next season but Sea Eagles powerbrokers are keen to secure him long-term. The club is set to form a retention committee to expedite the matter, with chief executive David Perry, chairman Scott Penn and board members Bob Reilly and Phil Sidney likely to be tasked with keeping Toovey on the northern beaches. The matter will be discussed at a board meeting on Thursday.

It is understood that some at the club are pushing for an extension of an additional two years to his current contract, while others are after just one. Of the four coaches still in the play-off race, Toovey is the most unheralded. But his ability to again get the Sea Eagles, written off by many as being too old at the start of the year, into the finals is one of the coaching achievements of the year.

While Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire and Wayne Bennett all have claims for the Dally M coach of the year honours, Toovey could scoop them all if his side makes an unlikely grand final appearance.

When the former premiership-winning halfback took over at short notice after Des Hasler defected to Canterbury, many believed Manly’s empire would crumble. But they have again made it to the penultimate game against the odds, defeating Cronulla after an arduous hit-out the previous week against Sydney Roosters.

Toovey is one of the club’s favourite sons, a one-club man who guided the Sea Eagles to premiership success during his playing days. The news is a huge boost ahead of their clash with South Sydney at ANZ Stadium. Toovey was ropeable after their last encounter, complaining about several contentious refereeing decisions which went against his side.

”We were in a really good position to win it last time,” said halfback Daly Cherry-Evans. ”There were a few things that went against us, whether it be the bounce of the ball or a few unfortunate decisions.

”I know we’ll be putting ourselves in the right positions the next time we play them so we can get the result we’re after.”

Halves partner Kieran Foran is confident Manly still has enough in the tank to overcome the Rabbitohs. ”You want to be there come grand final day. Everyone has got that burning desire to get there so of course you’re going to find that bit extra,” Foran said.

”As much as you’re tired and been playing tough games, we’ve got to find that bit extra to put in a good performance against Souths.

”They are a huge side, they really test you physically and I think they’ve got some really good threats across the park.

”We’re going to have to go up another level if we want to put in a good effort against them.”

Twitter – @proshenks

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Knights to the rescue in fairytale final

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Winning us over: Jeremey Smith and the Knights have proven the good news story of this year’s finals. Photo: Darren PatemanYou and me, babe. We watch the rugby league finals roll on by, like a passing circus, all the jugglers and the clowns … all the frowns, all the hoopla and carry-on.

Not being particular followers of any of the teams, we have no skin in the game, but still watch with interest to see what kind of sporting theatre it will deliver. The key question before us, thus, is who should we be hoping wins the whole damn thing, to deliver the greatest dramatic climax, the most bang for our buck? Which result will make for the greatest sporting narrative?

After all, accepted wisdom, at least north of the Tweed, is that the NRL wants a Roosters-Rabbitohs grand final, but as you and I care nothing for what the NRL wants, and even less for what those who live north of the Tweed think, we’re going to have to work it out for ourselves. So here is your ready-reckoner, as jotted down by myself, with a mark out of 10 for the satisfaction a grand final win by these teams would deliver.

Manly. Tough one. They used to be the team everyone loved to hate, but having gone through their own tough times in recent years there is something admirable about their grittiness, if not always their stroppiness. P.G. Wodehouse once wrote, ”it is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine”, and much the same could be said of Manly coach Geoff Toovey. The players take their cues from him.

Yes, a Manly victory would be great for those on the insular peninsula, but as they won a couple of years ago under Des Hasler, the main narrative pay-off would be proof that Manly can do it without Dessie – which is fine, but hardly makes you choke up and say ”ain’t sport wonderful?” Yes, they have a couple of likeable characters, like that huge prop George Rose – who looks like he got lost from his natural place in time in the 1970s – and Daly Cherry-Evans, plus the fellow on the wing they call ”Wolfman”, but after that it seems a bit thin.


Sydney Roosters. It all seems to be about Sonny Bill Williams doesn’t it? Just about every story done on them focuses on what a superstar he is, how his presence has transformed the side, how he is the greatest athlete ever, etc. All of which is fairly true, but just as I personally find it a bit hard to get too emotionally involved in which billionaire has bought the best boat and best crew to win the America’s Cup – at least when Australia is not represented – it is hard to get too excited about who has managed to purchase Sonny Bill’s services this year. A better story would be the redemption of Roosters hooker Jake Friend, who is supremely talented, but lost his way under Willie Mason’s wing a few years back, and has now made his way back to his glory days. All up, a Roosters win would be … hardly the stuff fairytales are made of.


South Sydney. Great story. If they win, they will be the team that fought its way back from the apocalypse in the mid-90s to be the pride of the league. Pushed into the abyss for being too traditional, too old, too poor, too hopeless, Souths simply refused to die, and – in part helped by a Hollywood star – now find themselves the most powerful force in the land in the 21st century. Superb. It would be an even better story if there hadn’t been an expectation all season that this is exactly what was going to happen, and even better again if there hadn’t also been a fair measure of brutality during their rise this year. It makes it harder to warm to the players personally – but it’s still a great yarn nevertheless.


Newcastle. This is the one. This is the team. This is the coach. This is the club, boasting the most devoted rugby league tribe in the land. As far and away the least likely side to get to the grand final, let alone win it, they already have the whole underdog tag wrapped up. They lost four matches on the trot early in the season, and were going nowhere fast, but then something clicked. The side is full of admirable characters like Danny Buderus, somehow still going at the age of 35. There is the revamped Mason, again, somehow managing to make a major impact despite his advanced years. And then there is Wayne Bennett … already known as a supercoach, if Bennett can take this side from 12th at the end of last season to a premiership, it would confirm his credentials and be a staggering achievement for him, the team and the town. The only downside is it might also make a hero of Nathan Tinkler – Clive Palmer without the charm – but we could learn to live with it.


In short … go the Knights!

Twitter – @Peter_Fitz

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Jake White quits as ACT Brumbies coach

Saturday, August 10th, 2019

Jake White . Photo: Melissa Adams Former Brumbies coach Jake White with captain Ben Mowen.

White leaves with players’ blessing: Mowen

ACT Brumbies coach Jake White has sensationally quit his Super Rugby job just two months after leading the club to the grand final.

The Brumbies have granted White a release from the last two years of his contract because ‘‘his heart’s not in it’’.

Assistant coaches Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher are the front-runners to replace White with the Brumbies starting the search for a new coach.

White also feels his pathway back to international rugby as an Australian based coach was shut when the Australian Rugby Union overlooked him for the Wallabies job.

The Brumbies are about to start a process to find a new coach and hope to have an appointment finalised within the next two weeks when the players return for pre-season training.

White approached Brumbies chief executive Andrew Fagan last Friday to ask for a release for personal reasons.

Fagan and Brumbies captain Ben Mowen spoke with White about his decision, but his mind was made up about staying in South Africa.

Brumbies players were shocked on Wednesday night when they learnt of the news on social media.

They were of the belief White was committed to helping them win a Super Rugby title and the coach had spoken to them last week about the pre-season training program.

White is in South Africa and will be at Newlands in Cape Town on Sunday morning to watch the Wallabies play the Springboks.

Fairfax Media understands White has been linked to a job at the Cape Town Stormers for next season, either as a coach or a coaching director, or a job at the Durban Sharks.

John Smit, White’s former Springboks captain, is the boss at the Sharks.

It is understood missing out on the Wallabies coaching job affected White’s desire to stay in Australian rugby.

The ARU overlooked White’s World Cup-winning credentials to instead appoint Ewen McKenzie as the new Wallabies coach because of his vision to play ‘‘the Australian way’’, a reference to attacking rugby.

It’s understood White met with Mowen in Cape Town on Wednesday night to inform him of his decision.

Larkham and Fisher have been working this week to finalise the 2014 playing roster and tie up loose ends that White left unfinished. Both assistant coaches have contracts to stay with the Brumbies.

But it’s unclear whether their deals were affected by White’s presence.

White has also signed the bulk of his playing roster until at least the end of 2015, but it’s unknown if they have get-out clauses in their deals.

Players re-signed with the Brumbies because they bought into his program and believed he could turn the club into a Super Rugby powerhouse.

White’s tenure in Canberra has been riddled with speculation about his future as the Brumbies coach despite signing a four-year deal.

White almost walked out on the Brumbies just two games into his contract when he was linked to the vacant England.

Just hours before the Brumbies clash against the Free State Cheetahs in March last year, he ruled himself out of the running and committed to his Canberra deal.

But since arriving in the capital, White has always stated his desire to return to international coaching.

White led South Africa to a World Cup triumph in 2007.

He was also linked to the Ireland coaching job earlier this year and then the ARU asked White to apply for the Wallabies job.

White met with ARU powerbrokers in Melbourne before the Wallabies’ second Test against the British and Irish Lions in June.

Former South African World Cup-winning coach White was recruited to the Brumbies to lift the team out of its darkest era.

But he is now leaving after completing just two years of his four-year contract.

White overhauled Brumbies headquarters in Griffith and led them to within one win of a drought-breaking finals berth in his first year in charge.

In his second season with the Brumbies, they made the finals for the first time since 2004 and stormed into the grand final only to lose to the Chiefs in Hamilton in August.

The Brumbies will move into a new $15 million facility at the University of Canberra next year.

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