NRL: Battle lines are drawn as Nathan Brown and Wayne Bennett go head-to-head

Work in progress: Knights coach Nathan Brown barks orders during a Newcastle training session. Photo: Jonathan Carroll
Work in progress: Knights coach Nathan Brown barks orders during a Newcastle training session. Photo: Jonathan Carroll

THERE is nothing quite like a footy feud and the latest episode involves Knights coach Nathan Brown and Broncos counterpart Wayne Bennett.

Brown’s comments after the Knights 15-10 victory over the Broncos on Saturday ensured there might be some added spice next time the two sides meet.

The Broncos mentor fired the first shot a week ago – and probably didn’t expect the return to come back with some interest.

He suggested Brown had to rebuild the Novocastrians because he felt the current Knights coach had been responsible for letting many star players leave.

What happened next has divided opinion right down the middle.

On Saturday night, Brown said if Bennett “thought with his big head rather than his little head, I wouldn’t have had to rebuild the joint”.

Whether you agree with the sentiments or whether Brown went too far is a different matter, but when a coach makes public comments about any player or coach they have to expect a retort.

If Bennett didn’t say anything about the current situation at the Knights in the first place, would Brown have felt the need to defend himself?

What the Knights coach meant is up for interpretation and we all know interpretation is a grey area in rugby league.

Was it in reference to the breakdown of Bennett’s 42-year marriage to former wife Trish after he met his current partner Dale Tynan when he coached at the Knights between 2012 and 2014?

Tynan was the personal assistant to the Newcastle club doctor.

Nathan was referring to Wayne’s short-term mindset in regards to winning competitions at the Newcastle Knights.

Alex McKinnon

Or was it simply a reference to Bennett’s ego getting in the way when he was at the Knights when he was focused on winning a premiership rather than setting the club up for the future?

At the time, former owner Nathan Tinkler was splashing the cash, but the playing roster is ultimately determined by the coach.

Former Knights back-rower Alex McKinnon came up with a different perspective on Fox Sports on Sunday night after a conversation with Brown.

“Nathan was referring to Wayne’s short-term mindset in regards to winning competitions at the Newcastle Knights,” McKinnon said.

“Wayne hasn’t got long in the game left, his contract finishes at the end of next year and the focus for him is probably to win premierships and his legacy does not lie on that.

“He was sacrificing the long-term success for his own short-term success and it definitely had nothing to do with his relationship and it’s been completely taken out of context.”

As a consequence of the role Bennett played, the Knights are only just starting to emerge from a four-year period where they were rarely higher than 12th on the ladder.

To suggest that Nathan Brown had “unbuilt” the club before he started his rebuild is almost laughable.

He was sacrificing the long-term success for his own short-term success and it definitely had nothing to do with his relationship and it’s been completely taken out of context.

Alex McKinnon

Brown simply had to pick up the pieces Bennett left behind when he walked out on the final year of his four-year contract with the Knights.

Rick Stone was only ever going to be a short-term solution when he took the reins in 2015 before he was sacked midway through that season.

Stone played a small part in the club’s struggles, but it was former owner Nathan Tinkler and Bennett who were short-sighted in their vision of trying to buy a premiership.

It caught up with them in the end and only now is Brown starting to reap the rewards of his hard work.

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