Wayne's pain just not footy
SHANE Webcke summed up the Wayne Bennett-Nathan Brown imbroglio fairly succinctly this week when he said both "good blokes” would have hoped it never happened.
But sadly it did happen, and what the Knights coach said about the "old fox” - as he referred to Bennett - was crude, unnecessary and totally inappropriate in a public forum. It showed a lack of class from someone who is generally and genuinely liked, and admired.
That in this current age of political correctness gone absolutely mad the NRL hierarchy saw no reason to sanction Brown for his disgusting analogy was as mystifying as the reason for the Knights coach to lower himself to such depths.
Sadly, this is one of those occasions when the facts in the issue at hand are immaterial. But let's examine those facts anyway.
What Bennett originally said in his press conference was, from trusted and unbiased information I have received, taken somewhat out of context. Nathan Brown, not surprisingly, heard the quotes second-hand from someone no doubt looking for a headline.
In the main, Bennett admired Brown for the job he had done at Newcastle. But the veteran coach is not one to lavish too much praise on an opponent, so he clearly used the "unbuilt” line to maintain that long-held reputation.
It was disappointing that Brown had a day to conjure up a response, and he chose to go down the sleazy track. And for what it's worth, as a long-term journo I have no doubt the question from the local Newcastle scribe was pre-arranged.
What is also immaterial is that Brown's tacky throwaway line took away from his team's impressive win over Bennett's Broncos. It was Brown who chose to put his hurt feelings above the performance of his team, no one else.
Not surprisingly, the voracious NRL media mob jumped on the extremely personal and hurtful slur like crows to road kill. Suddenly Bennett, as has been the case of late on some larrikin-style TV shows linked to the game, became the butt of further shameful ridicule.
I first met Bennett just on four decades ago and worked closely with him at the Broncos for seven years. We are by no means good mates, or even close, and I certainly don't have an agenda to support him on this issue.
But since his long-term marriage sadly failed, respect for one of the most successful coaches in NRL history has slipped. He has become the central figure to insolent ridicule simply because, as a man, he has shown human frailty that few imagined he possessed.
To his credit, Brown phoned Bennett as well as a member of the Broncos coach's extended family to apologise for his crass remark, which is thoughtful. The damage, however, has been done.
But yet again, as the rugby league fraternity does so very well, many are delighting in another tall poppy bring cut down.