Wayne Bennett and former Titans coach Garth Brennan.
Wayne Bennett and former Titans coach Garth Brennan.

Unwanted Bennett could have saved Titans

Wayne Bennett has revealed he was sensationally snubbed for the Titans job after the NRL's greatest coach privately approached club bosses offering to help rebuild the embattled Gold Coast.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Bennett was ready to coach the Gold Coast for $600,000-a-season, only to have his advances rejected by club powerbrokers.

Bennett has confirmed he made a series of approaches to the Titans around September last year after being advised by the Broncos board that his contract would not be renewed beyond the 2019 season.

Mindful recently-sacked Titans coach Garth Brennan was contracted for this year, Bennett offered to join the Titans in 2020.

The super coach believed he could use his 40 years of experience, having delivered six premierships to a Broncos club he joined in their foundation year in 1988, to implement structures that would make the Titans a title force.

 

 

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Bennett's interest was so legitimate he hired an agent to formalise the approach.

The 69-year-old also engaged a third-party associate to discuss plans to give the Titans a seven-time premiership-winning coach.

But after Gold Coast bosses politely declined Bennett's offer, South Sydney swooped, effectively completing a straight coaching swap with Broncos-bound Anthony Seibold.

 

The Titans declined Bennett’s offer, who took up a contract with South Sydney. Picture: Dean Lewins
The Titans declined Bennett’s offer, who took up a contract with South Sydney. Picture: Dean Lewins

 

The Titans' snubbing of Bennett has proved a disaster.

While Bennett has steered the Rabbitohs to second spot, in contention for his eighth premiership, the last-placed Titans are in crisis following the sacking of Brennan, hunting for a replacement who cannot match the super coach's record.

"I did consider the Titans job," Bennett said on Wednesday night.

"The truth is I was genuinely interested in coaching them.

"I actually had a player manager make contact with them and another third-party with mutual ties called the Titans to let them know I was interested.

"I also made personal contact with one person at the Titans as well and told him I would coach them.

 

The Titans are looking for a new coach following the sacking of Garth Brennan. Picture: Michael Chambers
The Titans are looking for a new coach following the sacking of Garth Brennan. Picture: Michael Chambers

 

"The Broncos decided I'd reached my use-by date and I wanted to coach on, so I had to look at other opportunities.

"I was looking at the 2020 season and beyond because at that point, I was still contracted to the Broncos (for 2019) and the Titans had a coach in place.

"The word that came back to me was they weren't interested... simple as that."

It is understood money was one impediment in the eyes of Titans chiefs.

The financially-prudent club feared it would have to pay in excess of $1 million to secure Bennett, who was on $900,000 at the Broncos.

But Bennett, motivated by the challenge of bringing success to the Titans, would have signed for $600,000 a season.

There were also concerns Bennett could have been difficult to manage at a time when he was embroiled in a bitter war of words with Broncos bosses.

 

Bennett admits his heart belongs to Queensland rugby league. Picture: Michael Chambers
Bennett admits his heart belongs to Queensland rugby league. Picture: Michael Chambers

 

Bennett says he has no bitterness towards the Titans, having found contentment at the Rabbitohs.

But the veteran coach, a proud Queenslander, believes he could have solved the NRL's greatest riddle - can a rugby league team succeed on the Gold Coast?

"I know what's required to succeed at the Titans," he said.

"I would have been able to rebuild that club.

"I went to Canberra before the Broncos came in when the Raiders were only five years old.

"They finished 11th out of 13 teams the year before I went there and the next year, working with Don Furner, we played in the 1987 grand final against Manly.

"I then started the Broncos (in 1988), we didn't even have a team and we went on to win six premierships.

"I get how it all works.

"I'm in NSW again with South Sydney and it wasn't expected, but now that I'm here at the Rabbitohs, I'm very happy actually, it's a wonderful club and it's a move that I'm pleased with.

 

Bennett felt he knew how to ensure the Titans’ survival. Picture: Joel Carrett
Bennett felt he knew how to ensure the Titans’ survival. Picture: Joel Carrett

 

"But Queensland rugby league and the health of the game in Queensland is always close to my heart."

Asked why he wanted the Titans job, Bennett said: "I thought I could offer the Titans a more consistent football team.

"I felt I could help their brand and I thought I could get their fans on-side and build a supporter base for the Gold Coast.

"I've always been a coach for the fans. That's why my teams play entertaining football.

"I'm always touched when I walk to a ground and I see the mums and dads driving in with their little kids in their arms in their supporter gear and logos.

"Some of our fans would be lucky to earn $60,000 a year, but they love the game, they love their club and the colours and all they want is their team to have a go and play for the jumper.

"That's what I could have brought to the Titans.

"That's what we built the Broncos on. I remember Paul Morgan (Broncos co-founder) saying to me, 'Wayne, we won't win every game but we need our fans to go home being proud of the team they just watched and then they will come back'.

 

 

"You know your business is failing when your repeat customer doesn't come back. If you do a good enough job, the customer comes back.

"I would love to see a strong Titans brand. The tragedy at the moment is that the three Queensland teams are struggling and it's putting pressure on our State of Origin team.

"It's not hard to get the Titans competing for their fans.

"I was confident enough I could do that."

Player disenchantment was a factor in Brennan's sacking. Significantly, Bennett has never lost the dressing room and blasts suggestions he is an agitator who is difficult to manage.

"One thing I will say is this - I'm not hard to manage," he said.

"The problem is some management don't understand why you do things and how you do things. To justify their arguments, they will say I'm difficult to manage.

 

 

"I was told by the Cowboys 10 years ago I was too old and had lost my way. Within two years, I took the Dragons to a premiership.

"There have been that many things written and said about me over the years it's been ridiculous.

"Anybody who truly knows me knows I'm not divisive. I couldn't have achieved what I have in this game if I was pig-headed and divisive. I'm the opposite. You can't build teams and care about players and win premierships if you are divisive.

"The one criticism the critics can never throw at me is that I can't build happy teams.

"I'm glad Souths recognised that in me."