NRL: Paul Kent has fired back at Wayne Bennett after the Broncos coach acussed Kent oflying about Anthony <Milford’s work ethic.
THE Broncos have won two from four in 2017 but it’s not their on-field performances dominating the headlines.
Before the season started coach Wayne Bennett was facing accusations he’d lost the dressing room. His players apparently no longer had faith in him and the man who’s won seven premierships as a mentor had lost his touch.
Then he had to deal with accusations five-eighth Anthony Milford was a lazy trainer, a claim supposedly made by a teammate. That allegation was denied and Bennett fired back at the media.
“We’ve lost the changeroom, I’ve lost my aura … it’s just all rubbish you guys are making up and it’s getting ridiculous. It’s offensive actually in the end,” he said.
But for as long as the 67-year-old is under siege he’ll always have one man in his corner. Wendell Sailor played under Bennett at Brisbane and later at St George, and also for Queensland when the master coach was in charge of the Origin side.
Bennett gave Sailor his crack in first grade and has been there for him ever since. Even during Sailor’s darkest hours — notably when he was suspended from playing rugby union for two years for taking cocaine while representing the NSW Waratahs — Bennett stayed by his side.
“I openly credit Wayne’s phone calls and his obvious concern for helping me to fight my way through the destructive feelings of self-loathing and despair,” Sailor wrote in a column for sportsta.
“He couldn’t possibly know what it meant for me to answer my phone and hear his voice open our latest conversation by asking, ‘How’s it going, big fella?’”
Sailor said Bennett’s constant support during the tough times helped him emerge from his personal turmoil, and suspects his compassion was born out of a fear the marauding winger may take his own life.
“On reflection I think Wayne was scared there was a chance I might have suicided,” Sailor wrote.
“I know that sounds strong, and I’m certainly not jumping on the issue of mental health that’s dominating a lot of talk in the NRL, but I believe Wayne feared I was the perfect candidate to do something drastic as the life of the party who’d overnight become the footballer that seemingly lost it all.
“It was personally important to have his support because each phone call reinforced that Wayne Bennett hadn’t given up on me.
“He’s done so much for me as a player, a person and as someone who has made mistakes, I have no hesitation in saying Wayne saved my life in so many ways.”
It’s those memories that lead Sailor to believe anyone doubting whether Bennett is the right man to lead this year’s crop of Broncos is talking utter nonsense. He said Bennett’s ability to connect with his players and make them better people, not just better players, was his greatest strength.
Clearly Sailor and Bennett share a special bond, one that seemed unlikely when the rugby league guru told Sailor he didn’t want him at the Broncos as a teenager. Fortunately for Sailor, scout Cyril Connell turned Bennett around.
“Wayne and I had a meeting. He told me, ‘Mate, I’ve seen you play at state carnivals, I think you’ve got talent but you’re a bit lazy and you’re a bit brash. I don’t think you’ll fit my culture,’” Sailor told Peter Sterling last year on an episode of On the Couch with Sterlo.
“Cyril Connell was the one who convinced Wayne, saying, ‘Mate, give this kid a go.’
“I went to the Broncos on a contract of $5000. Wayne didn’t want to sign me.”
Sailor became a Broncos icon, scoring more than 100 tries for the club. He also played 14 Origins and 16 Tests for Australia.
We hope Bennett shouted Connell a beer.