South Sydney acted quickly last week, announcing the signing of Wayne Bennett for the 2020 and 2021 seasons just hours after Anthony Seibold informed Rabbitohs officials that he would join Brisbane following the completion of his contract in Redfern.
While South Sydney’s Shane Richardson has publicly declared that the club is more than happy to leave Seibold at the helm for the 2019 season, it is just utter idocracy if the two clubs aren’t trying to ensure the coaches swap seats within the coming weeks.
See, a player signing a contract a year in advance is an entirely different ball game to that of a coach signing a deal twelve months before it starts.
Take Angus Crichton for example.
The South Sydney back-rower made the decision to sign a three-year contract with the Sydney Roosters, starting in 2019, before a ball had even been kicked this year. While some Bunnies’ fans called for his early exit, there’s no reason to release a player of his calibre. His job within the team is simplistic – go out there and give it his all.
A coach is an entirely different scenario.
A head coach handles recruitment, retention, development and a host of other integral roles within the team. Which means when a coach signs a contract a year in advance, he’s simply got to go.
A club can’t afford to have a departing coach spend the entirety of a season talking to his off-contract players and swaying them to follow him, they can’t afford to watch their juniors not develop properly with the coach too engrossed in his future club’s juniors and recruitment.
Wayne Bennett is one of the strongest cases there is.
The coaching veteran has said it himself, some players aren’t loyal to Brisbane, they’re loyal to him.
Darius Boyd has followed Bennett for the entirety of his career. From his premiership winning debut year in 2006, to following the coach to St. George Illawarra, then across to the Hunter, and eventually landing back in Brisbane.
However, Boyd has already stated he won’t be following Bennett south, the superstar custodian nearing the backend of his glittering career.
Tevita Pangai Jnr is a different story. The Tongan international has made no secret of his respect and adoration for his head coach, and his loyalty to the man could see him move clubs for 2020.
And if Bennett is allowed to stay, then that’s twelve months that Wayne has to convince the hulking forward to jump ship with him. The same case applies to James Roberts and Matt Lodge, both of whom credit their coach for turning them around on and off the field.
While publicly they’ll ensure the public know that their focus is solely on seeing out their contracts with their current clubs in winning fashion, it’s undoubted that both men will have their eye on strengthening their 2020 roster, and ignore recruitment at their club.
South Sydney and Brisbane would only be shooting themselves in the foot if they were to retain their incumbent coach, and weakening elements about their short term future.
The curve ball here comes in the form of Wayne Bennett digging his heels and refusing to leave Brisbane unless he’s sacked by the club. Unlike the relationship between Seibold and Shane Richardson, there is a certain toxicity between Bennett and Broncos’ CEO Paul White.
White and Bennett’s differences were aired publicly through the media this year, and climaxed in White informing the premiership winning coach that his services would no longer be required after his contract expires.
Another season at the helm would create an immense level of tension at the Broncos in 2019, presenting yet another reason why the clubs must trade coaches now.
South Sydney, Brisbane, if you want to strengthen your future, release your coach. Release him now. You can’t afford to leave someone at the wheel who has their eyes elsewhere for the next season.
Loyalty still has a place in rugby league, but sometimes if you want your business to succeed, you need to momentarily abandon it.