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Wayne Bennett, rugby league’s living treasure also referred to as “Super Coach”, “Uncle Wayne”, or simply “OG”, has never been one to spruik his own records or personal milestones.
Even as he prepares to coach a record 900th game on Saturday evening, Bennett wanted no part of the fuss surrounding his feat. On Friday in Brisbane, he even threatened to cut short his press conference if asked another question about the milestone.
“If you want to talk about the team and players that’s fine, but if you want to talk about me I’ll just have to leave the conference,” Bennett said.
When this masthead contacted him earlier this week to talk about his milestone games over the years, dating back to 1991 when he coached his 100th game, Bennett said: “I’d only be wasting your time. Thanks for the offer, but I’m not interested.”
NRL officials must be worried Bennett will brush his own post-match presentation – especially if the Dolphins lose to Cronulla.
Players who featured in Bennett’s milestone games over the years all said the coach never once mentioned his own achievements.
Bennett has won six of his eight milestone games, including his 800th in 2018 amid reports at the time that fellow master coach Craig Bellamy was being lined up to replace him at the Broncos. We take a look back at all eight.
Game No.100: Brisbane v St George, Kogarah Oval, round 2, 1991.
Queensland and Kangaroos great Dale Shearer during the Broncos’ loss to St George in 1991.Credit: Palani Mohan
Gene Miles captained a Brisbane Broncos that also featured Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Steve Renouf, Greg Dowling and Trevor Gillmeister, but the Dragons proved too strong. Mick Potter shifted from fullback to five-eighth and the Red V ran out 20-12 winners at home. Miles was given five minutes in the bin for arguing with referee Bill Harrigan.
Game No.200: Brisbane v St George, ANZ Stadium, Brisbane, round 6, 1995
Nearly 40,000 fans in Brisbane cheered their side to victory in what was their sixth straight win to start the year. Kevin Walters bagged a double while Glenn Lazarus scored a rare four-pointer. Four players were binned while Terry Matterson was sent off.
A rare try to the rampaging Glenn Lazarus was a highlight of Bennett’s 200th match in charge.Credit: Craig Golding
Game No.300: Brisbane v Balmain, Leichhardt Oval, round 11, 1999
There’s nothing like a visit to Leichhardt Oval to spark a mid-season surge of form. Bennett’s Broncos were struggling before arriving at the spiritual ground in Sydney’s inner west.
Tonie Carroll tamed the Tigers with two tries.Credit: NRL Photos
Tonie Carroll bagged a double before the Broncos went on to win their next 10 games. The win still gets spoken about as the turning point of that season.
Game No.400: Brisbane v Souths, Aussie Stadium, round 2, 2003
Bennett watched Gorden Tallis strip the ball from Paul Stringer before Brent Tate scored the winner in the dying seconds. “With about 30 seconds to go … I had the losing speech ready,” Bennett said at the time.
Gorden Tallis (right), pictured copping a ‘don’t argue’ from Souths’ Bryan Fletcher, was involved in the match-winning play in 2003.Credit: Getty
“I’ve still got the losing feeling even though we won. We just never stopped believing, which is one of their great strengths. It keeps me coaching I guess.”
Tate said Souths were always difficult to beat in Sydney, and Bennett, who rarely showed emotion, was actually “chuffed” in the sheds after the win.
“Wayne has done this for so long now, but he doesn’t do it for the milestones, he does it because he gets a genuine thrill out of helping young men,” Tate said on Friday.
Game No.500: Brisbane v St George Illawarra, Suncorp Stadium, qualifying final, 2006
Bennett spoke of his disappointment in his players’ second-half effort as the Broncos were stunned in front of a huge crowd. The game was also famous for a punter dropping $100,000 with bookies Centrebet on the home side.
The Broncos were stunned in week one of the finals in 2006 but would win the biggest game of them all a few weeks later.Credit: Paul Harris
Skipper Darren Lockyer said, “we played the worst we have played in four weeks”, as Bennett’s men slumped to a seventh successive finals’ loss, dating back to 2002.
Game No.600: St George Illawarra v Sydney Roosters, SCG, round 22, 2010
Jamie Soward remembers Bennett keeping quiet about the special day, but the players were determined to win for him.
It took a Ben Creagh try to break the deadlock before Soward slotted a field goal for good measure.
Bennett headed south in 2009 … and Dragons fans were quick to take to the supercoach.Credit: Getty
“Wayne’s message that game was to stick to our plan,” Soward said. “He didn’t discuss the milestone. Everyone loves playing for Wayne. The fact I got to be coached by Wayne is something I’ll talk about for the rest of my life.”
Game No.700: Newcastle v Cronulla, Remondis Stadium, round 18, 2014
Willie Mason crashed over for a rare try and recalled the players wanting to lift for the super coach, even though they only knew about the feat via the press. The Knights trailed 18-6 at the break before scoring 25 unanswered points.
“We all tried to go to that next level because Wayne is the ‘OG’ of all the coaches, and we put in that extra effort,” Mason said.
Bennett speaks after Newcastle’s win over the Sharks in 2014.Credit: Getty
“I think I scored from about 30m out. Maybe it was 40m. Wayne said nothing about his 700th. All he wanted us to do was stick to the process. He didn’t make a big deal of his record.”
Game No.800: Brisbane v Parramatta, Suncorp Stadium, round 12, 2018
In the same week Bennett planned for his 800th game, the Broncos were linked to Craig Bellamy. Bennett was out the door at the end of that year, only to be replaced by Anthony Seibold – not Bellamy.
The milestone win against the Eels that night was particularly satisfying for skipper Darius Boyd who said: “Wayne wouldn’t mention it [the milestone], but we spoke about it as a group, and I am really pleased we got the win for him. Wayne has done a lot for this club – he basically built it.”
Bennett with Darius Boyd after the pair combined for a win in the coach’s 800th game.Credit: Getty
Now 73, Bennett can still rattle off some entertaining one-liners like the best of them.
As he said on Friday: “I never thought about being a coach. It’s not something I wanted to do. I’m still not sure if I want to be a coach.”
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