Kent: Silence proof Bennett’s one of the players

Cover-ups have long been a part of rugby league, and not often a glorious part.

Nobody can ever be sure who really was The Man in the Bowler Hat, perhaps the most famous cover-up in rugby league history.

The story goes that a Kangaroo player, in the northern English town of Ilkley, walked through town wearing nothing but a bowler hat and a broad smile one chilly night in 1967.

Johnny Raper often claimed it was him, with a wink.

Raper, who had the constitution of a steam train, was such a force it is easy to see him in the role and everybody assumed one day he would let the truth out but, now, he is frail and paralysed by dementia. Even if he did have a moment of clarity you could not trust it.

 

Wayne Bennett has deflected his knowledge of Walker’s off-field incident. Photo: Adam Yip
Wayne Bennett has deflected his knowledge of Walker’s off-field incident. Photo: Adam Yip

 

Kangaroo teammate Dennis Manteit claimed on television 20 years after the Tour that he, in fact, was The Man in the Bowler Hat and Manteit muddied the water just enough that it was hard to determine who was telling the truth.

They both certainly had the smile for it.

Such cover-ups had a kind of charm to it compared to nowadays.

The latest cover-up surrounds Cody Walker's trip home over the summer when he went kung-fu fighting in a bar-room brawling kind of town.

The incident, caught on phone camera, was a blackmail attempt that quickly disintegrated and is now focused on the events themselves.

Before we move on, if ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys has trouble implementing his wrestling crackdown he could do worse than employ the man in the Raiders jersey who kept stepping in between the men to ensure it was a fair fight. He wanted nothing to do with the wrestle, this one.

 

The veteran coach has one eye on the next move. Photo: Phil Hillyard
The veteran coach has one eye on the next move. Photo: Phil Hillyard

 

Next, the cover-up and ongoing Integrity Unit investigation does not rest on Walker's failure to inform.

Walker was worried what to say when the Integrity Unit came knocking. He preferred the old rules, the one coach Wayne Bennett used to like to say of the media: "Tell 'em nothing, take 'em nowhere."

The Rabbitohs, with the ghost of Arizona still whispering in their ears, told Walker to be honest and they would deal with any fallout. As well as a penalty to Walker it will almost certainly now end in a fine to the Rabbitohs and possibly Bennett as well.

So Walker revealed he told coach Bennett who, it seems, did not deem the incident worthy enough to repeat, even to his employers, and even though the rules clearly state he must do so.

Bennett has downplayed the incident, simplifying it to such a degree by claiming nobody contacted Souths about it so he did not deem it worthy of passing on.

That might have worked in another era. In fact, it did.

 

Walker thought the incident was dead.
Walker thought the incident was dead.

 

But there is nowhere to hide anything these days.
But there is nowhere to hide anything these days.

 

But with an Integrity Unit costing the NRL more than $3 million a year, millions of dollars walking out on the game for behaviour-related issues, and strict protocols around reporting such incidents, partly in an effort to manage them with the least damage to the game, it is no longer acceptable.

So the investigation is now two investigations, the incident itself and why Souths did not inform the NRL.

Souths' failure to handle it properly has made it bigger than it should have been.

For one, Walker could never have been blackmailed if the NRL's response was "We have already dealt with that" last December.

Case closed.

Instead, it causes another embarrassment for the game.

The deeper issue for South Sydney is what it hides.

 

How could it go unknown for so long at Souths? Photo: Matrix Media Group
How could it go unknown for so long at Souths? Photo: Matrix Media Group

 

A very legitimate reason why Bennett chose to keep the information to himself was to curry favour with his players.

He will no doubt be lauded at training as a "good bloke" for sticking solid with Walker, to the cheers of his players.

There was a time when Bennett was the man most responsible at his club, whatever club that was, for driving the team's standards and practices.

More and more in recent years, though, his focus has shifted from a coach demanding standards, without prejudice, to a coach doing all he can do to keep the playing group happy in order to remain gainfully employed.

Players often have difficulty identifying the difference, and no doubt Bennett's failure to pass the information up the food chain has been well-received by the Rabbitohs players.

This is a problem for the Rabbitohs, though, not a relief.

Now, those standards are giving way to make Bennett's remaining time at South Sydney comfortable, and possibly to curry favour with a playing group as he seeks to find another club.

Originally published as Kent: Silence proof Bennett's one of the players



How CQ woman built million dollar business from lounge room

Premium Content How CQ woman built million dollar business from lounge room

The retail and wholesale outlet has grown in three years to employ 12 staff.

Stunning Cap Coast property wins ‘House of the Year’ title

Premium Content Stunning Cap Coast property wins ‘House of the Year’ title

The Master Builders Central Queensland Housing and Construction Awards was...

FISHING FRIDAY: Prime weather for weekend action offshore

Premium Content FISHING FRIDAY: Prime weather for weekend action offshore

Scotty Lynch shares his tips and tricks for a weekend of fishing.