South Sydney rabbitohs training
South Sydney rabbitohs training

Why grudge match feud is classic Bennett

THE ruckus in the lead-up to tonight's Broncos-Rabbitohs grudge match at Suncorp Stadium has Wayne Bennett's fingerprints all over it.

In fact, you could describe it as classic Bennett.

Here we have Brisbane coach Anthony Seibold and South Sydney assistant Jason Demetriou engaging in an unseemly - but oh-so entertaining - spat, while Bennett stays mute on the sidelines, a bemused half-smile on his stony dial.

"It's got nothing to do with me," Bennett told reporters yesterday. "Leave me out of it, will you? Just go talk to the people who are making the statements."

Nothing to do with me indeed. Just like it had nothing to do with him when former Queensland prop Greg Dowling ripped into the Bennett-coached Maroons after they had been thrashed 32-4 by the Blues in Game l, 2002.

"Looks like Tarzan, plays like Jane," Dowling said of backrower Dane Carlaw in a comment that could have been scripted for him - and probably was.

Queensland won Game II 26-18, with Carlaw scoring the match-sealing try, and took the series with an 18-18 draw in the decider - Carlaw scoring the crucial last try in that one too.

Then there was the time that Bennett had "nothing to do with" doctoring Dragons' coach Brian Smith's tip sheet before the 1993 grand final.

After Smith's rather benign assessments of the Broncos players somehow fell into Bennett's clutches, he rewrote them for maximum effect and used it as the ultimate motivational tool before Brisbane's 14-6 win.

That piece of creative editing (Smith called Bennett "the spin doctor from that day on) was the spark for the biggest coaching feud rugby league has seen - until now.

The bad blood between Bennett and Seibold has been bubbling away since they first came into contact with each other around 2012.

Seibold was part of the coaching team at a Queensland Emerging Origin camp overseen by Bennett.


Broncos coach Anthony Seibold lashed Souths assistant Jason Demetriou in an extraordinary press conference yesterday. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled
Broncos coach Anthony Seibold lashed Souths assistant Jason Demetriou in an extraordinary press conference yesterday. Picture: AAP Image/Dan Peled


Reportedly Bennett didn't like the way Seibold was speaking to the players, felt he was "arrogant" and called him aside for a dressing down.

More recently he has left his South Sydney players in no two minds about what he thinks of Seibold's "new age" coaching methods.

After the coaches' much-publicised club swap this season, Bennett told Souths players to throw away the notebooks Seibold had told them to bring to team meetings.

"You're not at university," the ex-copper snapped in what could be construed as a dig at his Harvard-educated predecessor. His reaction to Seibold's practice of having rock music blaring loudly at training was less subtle.

"Turn that s**t off," he barked.

But if Bennett's feelings towards Seibold have fluctuated between annoyance and irritation, word is that Demetriou feels genuine animosity for the man who beat him to the coveted Broncos job.

"He can't stand him, reckons he can't coach" an insider said. "He thinks he's a myth."

So much so that when then-Broncos assistant coach Demetriou was interviewed for the top job last year, part of his presentation was a slide show giving a direct comparison of his results and Seibold's from 2010 to 2018.

Under the heading "Merit", Demetriou highlighted his 78 per cent win-loss ratio in the Intrust Super Cup against Seibold's relatively poor results, including consecutive ninth placings (out of 12 clubs) with the Mackay Cutters in 2011-12.


Souths crushed the Broncos in their first meeting earlier this season. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images
Souths crushed the Broncos in their first meeting earlier this season. Picture: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images


During that eight year period Demetriou won two premierships with the Northern Pride and one with the Illawarra Cutters, as well as being assistant coach to Paul Green during the Cowboys' 2015 premiership-winning season. Despite being the NRL's coach of the year last season, Seibold is yet to win a title at any level.

Demetriou, who personally put together the gameplan in the three wins Bennett sides have had over Seibold-coached teams, was furious when Seibold was given the Broncos job ahead of him.

Seibold was known to be equally "unimpressed" when he learnt of Demetriou's PowerPoint presentation.

All of which has made this week's acidic interchange about Seibold's lack of silverware and Demetriou's inability to secure a head coaching role far more than typical pre-game banter.

There is real dislike on both sides, with Bennett's ongoing threat of legal action over $400,000 he believes is still owing from the Broncos adding to the mix.

The beauty for Bennett is that yet again he doesn't have to open his mouth to create mayhem. Just like with Dowling and Smith, he can stand back, pull the strings and watch the fire burn.

Like the man said, "it's got nothing to do with me."


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