STERN LOOKS HIDE TRUTH OF WISECRACK WAYNE
THE wit of Wayne Bennett … some would say it could be a title of one of those books with blank pages throughout. They’d be wrong. Fox Sports made much in Saturday’s telecast of Bennett’s laugh and wide smile at one stage of Brisbane’s win over Canberra as a departure from his usual dour visage.
The way Bennett tells it, he was reacting to a wind-up from a spectator who made reference to his resemblance to actor Clint Eastwood.
But when the mood suits him, Bennett has a sharp, wisecracking humour.
Over more than 30 years now, Bennett has been happy to cultivate a public image of old misery guts.
It helps to keep away people he’d rather not talk to.
His lack of reaction when cameras train in on him at games is in line with one of his principles in life that you never let yourself get too low emotionally or too high.
Early in the life of the Broncos, I came across Bennett’s way with a wisecrack at train- ing as I walked along, bouncing a ball on its point, back to me. “For God’s sake, put that ball down. You’ll kill yourself,’’ Bennett quipped.
Another time, Bennett looked at a journalist who had been away from the round for a while. “I thought we’d got rid of you,” he cracked.
In the late 1980s, Bennett’s Queensland team meeting was stopped by Martin Bella, who wanted to make a point about tactics and how the team should play.
Bennett cut him short. “Martin, you’re a prop,’’ he said, moving on to the next point. But Bennett shook his head one day when Glenn Laz- arus said something so controversial that some thought it would bring a square-up from opponents.
“They can’t do anything more to Lazo than has been done to him already – he’s a prop,’’ Bennett said.
The coach has had a love of larrikin footballers who say and do things which don’t fit his personality. Allan Langer, Kevin Walters, Peter Jackson and Wendell Sailor are just four of the more extroverted Broncos who Bennett loved.
When it is said Bennett doesn’t have a sense of humour, I sometimes think how he once invented a bogus game plan for the opposition in a grand final. He managed to convince most of his players that it was real. That takes a sense of humour.
At the last training session before the 1993 grand final against St George, Bennett quipped to reporters that he hadn’t “played the joker yet’’.
It transpired the joker was a game plan for the 1992 Dragons grand final team which someone had faxed to Bennett.
The coach and Bob Bax, a member of his match committee, had a fabulous time embellishing the player-by-player rundown written by Dragons coach Brian Smith with words like “thug’’, “lair’’ and “overrated’’.