file pic 01 oct 1992 Allan LANGER AND Wayne BENNETT COVERED IN STREAMERS GOING DOWN EDWARD ST – sport rugby league ticker tape parades headshot 35/Q/7458/26a
file pic 01 oct 1992 Allan LANGER AND Wayne BENNETT COVERED IN STREAMERS GOING DOWN EDWARD ST – sport rugby league ticker tape parades headshot 35/Q/7458/26a

When Wayne Bennett liked to party

Wayne Bennett likes to party?

Watching him deal with the media, it's hard to imagine Bennett cracking a smile let alone busting a move.

But Brisbane legend Steve Renouf insists Bennett is a lot of fun, crediting his relaxed approach with launching one of the great rugby league dynasties in 1992. In his 34th season holding coaching reins, Bennett still has one of the NRL's great poker faces.

The unfortunate lead of the comedy movie 'Weekend at Bernie's' would arguably give away more than Bennett at a press conference.

 

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From the outside looking in, it's still difficult to pinpoint what makes the 70-year-old tick.

But four-time premiership winner Renouf said in the inner sanctum it was easy to spot Bennett's strengths from the outset in those early Broncos days. He had exceptional man-management skills.

And he knew when to let his team blow off some steam.

Even if it was a week before Brisbane's maiden grand final.

"I can tell this story now. We won the major semi so we had a week off (before the grand final)," Renouf told AAP.

"We trained and went out on a Saturday night for a team dinner and we all got off our faces the weekend before our first grand final.

"It wouldn't happen these days but we used to go hard back then. We staggered down Caxton Street and had to recover for the week running into the GF - it was a bit of bonding." And it seems Bennett was the life of the party.

 

Contrary to his public persona, Wayne Bennett apparently loves a laugh.
Contrary to his public persona, Wayne Bennett apparently loves a laugh.

 

"Yeah he was there. He doesn't drink but he always loved to party with us," Renouf laughed.

"He never touched a drop of alcohol but he used to get a laugh out of us. We were the entertainment.

"Wayne said to the boys 'just enjoy the (grand final) week, suck it all up and do what you have to do on Sunday'.

"He kept us relaxed but also focused. He said 'let's not overthink this, we know what we have to do to win'.

"So we enjoyed training but we also had fun and Wayne allowed us to do that. We didn't think about the game that was coming and well, the rest is history."

Capped by Renouf's stunning 90m try, Brisbane went on to thrash St George 28-8 and clinch their maiden title.

 

Chris Johns and Steve Renouf hold up the Winfield Cup trophy following their win in the 1992 decider. Picture: Gregg Porteous
Chris Johns and Steve Renouf hold up the Winfield Cup trophy following their win in the 1992 decider. Picture: Gregg Porteous

 

"When we won in 1992 we dominated the season, we were minor premiers, but to actually win the grand final it was just jubilation," Renouf said. Bennett came to the fore again the next year when the Broncos attempted to defend their title after scraping into the finals in fifth.

"They do things differently these days but back then we had more one-on-one (time) with him (Bennett)," Renouf said.

"Today a lot of coaches have a lot of assistants, we didn't really have that. "What he did was get to know us as individuals so we had a mutual respect and everyone wanted to play for him.

 

The victorious Brisbane Broncos with Tina Turner after their Grand Final win 1993. Picture: Colin Whelan/Action Photographics
The victorious Brisbane Broncos with Tina Turner after their Grand Final win 1993. Picture: Colin Whelan/Action Photographics

"And he would always say to us 'you are not playing for me, you are playing for that bloke beside you on the field and your family'.

"We didn't want to let each other down. That is why we played the footy we did. We trusted each other." It was enough to inspire back to back titles as Brisbane overcame St George 14-6 in the 1993 decider.

"I still remember that day when the hooter went off (in 1993). We all just looked at each other and thought 'thank God that is over'," Renouf said. "Every final had been a knockout game after we finished fifth so compared to '92 when it was jubilation, this was just massive relief."

 

Brisbane Broncos captain Allan Langer with Winfield Cup trophy after his team's defeat of St George in the 1992 grand final.
Brisbane Broncos captain Allan Langer with Winfield Cup trophy after his team's defeat of St George in the 1992 grand final.

 

They were just getting started. Under Bennett, Brisbane won six titles in 14 years.

Not that it was all fun and games under the super coach.

Renouf insisted Brisbane players knew when to switch on despite the presence of resident jokers Allan Langer and Kevin Walters, saying Bennett only commanded respect at training.

Well, eventually.

"Playing in the 1990s, we would get to training an hour early and start playing indoor cricket in this tight space, you know, what could go wrong?" Renouf laughed.

"Wayne didn't really like us doing it. He used to say 'one of you bastards will get hit in the eye'.

"So we always had someone on lookout when we played and they would see him strolling over from his office and they'd go 'Benny's coming'. "We would all scatter, hide the bat and ball and, I swear, we would sit there at our lockers like schoolboys waiting for the principal to walk in - it was ridiculous.

"Of course he knew what we were doing, we weren't quiet about it, but it (reaction) showed we had the respect for him." Renouf's respect for Bennett hasn't waned. And he doesn't expect seven-time premiership winner's Midas touch to disappear any time soon either. "As long as he is standing, he will be coaching. And I still think he has a lot to give," Renouf said.

 

Originally published as When Wayne Bennett liked to party



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