Coach last piece of puz­zle for premiers

Townsville Bulletin - - NRL -

THE re-sign­ing of mas­ter coach Wayne Bennett shapes as the fi­nal step in St Ge­orge Illawarra’s plans for an NRL dy­nasty, but the de­fend­ing premiers are adamant suc­cess can be achieved even with­out the game’s most suc­cess­ful tac­ti­cian.

The re­ten­tion of Kiwi Test winger Ja­son Nightin­gale through to the end of the 2015 yes­ter­day made it eight play­ers f rom t his week­end’s start­ing 13 who are now un­der lock and key for at least the next three years.

Only Matt Cooper and Dar­ius Boyd of the side that will run out when the red and whites kick off their pre­mier­ship de­fence against Gold Coast on Satur­day are not con­tracted be­yond 2011, al­though Cooper is deep in ne­go­ti­a­tions about fin­ish­ing his ca­reer at the club.

T h a t l e a v e s Bo y d a n d Bennett, who are likely to come as a high-priced pack­age deal to which­ever club can woo the lat­ter, given Boyd has al­ready voiced his de­sire to fol­low the only coach he has ever had.

S o u t h S y d n e y a n d New­cas­tle – via po­ten­tial owner Nathan Tin­kler – have a l r e a d y e x p r e s s e d t h e i r in­ter­est in Bennett, but the firm­ing op­tion re­mains a re­turn to Bris­bane for the pair.

The Bron­cos still have room to spare un­der the salary cap fol­low­ing the non­sign­ing of Greg Inglis last year. But be­yond the ob­vi­ous ques­tion mark over Boyd and Bennett, the Dragons have the most set­tled ros­ter i n t he competition. Test winger Brett Morris joins Nathan Fien and Beau Scott in com­ing off con­tract at the end of 2012, but the re­main­der will all wear the red and white un­til at least 2013.

Nightin­gale, among t he most un­der­rated play­ers in the NRL, ad­mit­ted the coach­ing sit­u­a­tion be­yond 2011 had been a dis­cus­sion point in ne­go­ti­a­tions. But with the ma­jor­ity of the side set to stay to­gether for the next few years at least, Nightin­gale – who played the first 40 games of his ca­reer un­der Nathan Brown be­fore Bennett’s ar­rival – said the fu­ture looked bright no mat­ter who was in charge.

‘‘ There was ob­vi­ously that thought with all the hype around if Wayne’s staying or if he’s go­ing, but I was more think­ing about the club than the coach,’’ Nightin­gale said.

‘‘ I’m a St Ge­orge ju­nior, I’ve been here for a long time.

‘‘ A change of staff, I’ve been through that, I’ve seen what it’s done and I’m con­fi­dent that the club – who­ever the coach is in the com­ing years – is go­ing to be strong.’’

Asked if he pressed Bennett for a clue as to his 2012 where­abouts, Nightin­gale said: ‘‘ I didn’t want to put pres­sure on him to de­cide what his fu­ture is . . . I was bas­ing my de­ci­sion on what I know to be a good club ( rather) than who’s coach­ing.’’

The by-prod­uct of Nighti n g a l e ’ s r e - s i g n i n g a n d Cooper’s prob­a­ble re­ten­tion is the di­min­ish­ing of salary cap re­serves and could be an in­di­ca­tion the club may have al­ready given up on hold­ing on to Boyd.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.