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‘Greatest coach of all’: How ‘Uncle Wayne’ used his ‘magic’ to construct the Dolphins’ roster

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It’s not a straightforward job guiding a membership by means of it’s inaugural NRL season. That’s why the one man for the Dolphins was all the time Wayne Bennett.

The 73-year-old did precisely that on the Broncos again in 1988 and turned the membership into an absolute powerhouse, successful six premierships whereas he was on the helm.

He received his seventh premiership with the Dragons in 2010 and has made 10 grand finals over his 30-plus-year profession as a primary grade coach.

Bennett has by no means been generally known as a tactical genius, as an alternative he’s a person supervisor — and that’s how he will get outcomes.

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So when it got here to constructing a roster, the Dolphins took consolation from realizing they’d a not-so-secret weapon in Bennett.

Sure, the enlargement membership missed out on plenty of their big-name targets. But they did land three of the Storm’s most skilled gamers and an thrilling fullback, who on his day may be devastating.

And the one constant in Felise Kaufusi, the Bromwich brothers and Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow’s signings was Bennett.

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Kaufusi was the primary participant to signal an NRL cope with the Dolphins. The alternative to be part of historical past — and transfer nearer to household — performed a job in his choice. But the prospect to play underneath Bennett went a great distance too.

“He’s the greatest coach of all,” Kaufusi advised

“I was lucky enough to spend some time with him in Origin and to see what he’s like behind the scenes because I think he’s got a good poker face.

“From what I’ve seen in the media he’s pretty staunch and doesn’t give you much, but behind the scenes he’s just real genuine. He cares for you, he makes you feel confident as a player and he puts the responsibility back on you because he just wants you to be the best.”

It took Tabuai-Fidow only one video name to understand why so many individuals wish to play for Bennett.

“The first time I spoke to him was on FaceTime. He said ‘I’ve got the trust in you, you just need to trust me.’ The way he speaks, you can tell he really cares,” Tabuai-Fidow advised

Then after one coaching session, he realised why Bennett’s gamers are all the time all-in for his or her coach.

“The first day I started it was his first day as well,” Tabuai-Fidow mentioned.

“He’s a good bloke and just the way he speaks to the team, everyone listens in. I could listen to him for ages. You really tune into what he says and when he’s out on the paddock you really zone in when he talks.

“He’s one of the legendary coaches.”

Jesse Bromwich has nearly accomplished all of it within the recreation — he’s received premierships and captained each his crew and his nation. But he hadn’t skilled the magic of Bennett.

That modified although when he spoke to him in regards to the prospect of becoming a member of the Dolphins.

“I had a scheduled Zoom appointment with Wayne and I suppose it was a feeling I got after talking to him that I thought it might be a good opportunity for myself and my family (to sign with the Dolphins),” Bromwich advised

“I just went off a feeling to be honest. It wasn’t one single thing that he said, it was more so a bunch of things he said that was just the way I felt.

“No disrespect to anyone down in Melbourne, but the feeling I had outweighed anything I sort of thought at the time.

“Wayne just worked his magic on me I guess.”

Prior to that Bromwich had little or no to do with Bennett aside from listening to tales out of State of Origin camps from his Storm teammates, so naturally he “wanted to come and see for myself.”

“It’s been good so far,” Bromwich shared.

“The thing that I really enjoy about him is that he’s really honest, on and off the field. He’s quite funny too, he’s 73-years old but you’d think he was 40 or 50 — he’s pretty cool.

“He obviously has a lot of knowledge about the game and I’m enjoying his style at the moment.”

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Like Jesse, it solely took one chat with Bennett for Kenny Bromwich to know he wished to play for the Dolphins.

“I only had the one conversation with him and it felt pretty special,” Bromwich advised

“He told me about what they plan on doing, the vision they had for some of the guys they’ve signed and what I could bring to the place.

“We spoke about what he’s bringing and just the way he was talking I could see how he had gotten some of those teams he’s coached in the past up and get them performing the way they performed.”

It was somewhat totally different although for veteran prop Jarrod Wallace, who was coached by Bennett on the Broncos within the early years of his profession.

Bennett had such an affect on Wallace that he declared: “It was a no-brainer (to join the Dolphins) when ‘Uncle Wayne’ signed.”

“I literally sent my manager a photo of Wayne signing saying ‘if you don’t get me there I’m going to fire you’,” Wallace added.

“I love him, he’s a great guy with a great personality and he helped me so much as a player back in Brisbane that I want to help him start a brand new team here.”


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Wallace additionally spoke to Benett over the telephone earlier than signing however it wasn’t fairly as impactful because the Bromwich brothers and Tabuai-Fidow’s conversations. It didn’t should be.

“I was in bed and my phone started ringing and I was just going to let it ring out but I looked over and it said Wayne Bennett so I quickly answered,” Wallace laughed.

“He asked me what I was doing next year and said ‘I want you to come up here and play with me’. So I said ‘send me a contract and I’ll sign it and we’ll get it done.’

“The conversation went for about three minutes and then my manager was in negotiations for a couple of days and then it was done.”

Wallace was 23-years previous when Bennett returned to the Broncos after stints with the Dragons and Knights.

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The now 31-year-old lit up when pressed on how a lot Bennett means to him.

“He does (mean a lot to me),” Wallace mentioned.

“In 2014 I remember I had a rough year under the coach previously and didn’t know where I was going to be. I had shoulder surgery and come off pre-season with no trials or anything like that so I missed Round 1.

“I had heard that (Bennett) had asked a few questions about me and things like that but to still give me the opportunity I was super stoked.

“I walked into the team meeting and he literally looked at me in front of everyone and said ‘you’ve got one week to prove yourself or you can find yourself another club.’ But from finding out who I was and watching me he knew he could so that to me.

“Then I played every game onwards and the grand final with him and never looked back.

“I have so much respect and love for him because he kind of built me as the player that I am, he taught me what I needed to do to become a consistent NRL player.

“Don’t get me wrong he was hard on me, even when I thought I was good he made sure he let me know about the bad things but that’s what makes a good coach.

“There’s honestly not one bad thing I can say about him.”

Reuniting with Bennett on the Dolphins is a homecoming of kinds for Wallace and he shared that “nothing’s changed” between the 2.

“He stares me up like he did when I was a young kid because he likes to think he’s funny, but I reckon nine times out of 10 the boys just laugh because they’re too scared not to laugh,” Wallace joked.

“He hasn’t changed at all. He’s like your grandad, he makes jokes and gets into you, then he’s harsh but fair when he needs to be.

“When you’re not making the right decisions on the field he gives you the spray you need but it’s because he cares — he wants to make you a better player. He doesn’t beat around the bush because that’s not going to make anyone better, so he gets it done but he obviously does it respectfully.

“He’s also very smart, he knows who he can and who he can’t (be firm with) because young players coming through might take it to heart so he knows who has to be a bit gentler on… And then with us older boys he doesn’t hold back.

“He’s the ultimate people person. He knows everything about all of his players, he knows what’s going on behind the scenes, he knows their abilities on the field and that’s how he knows how to talk to players.”

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Fellow Dolphins recruit Kodi Nikorima additionally obtained a name from Bennett about becoming a member of him in Redcliffe. Nikorima had simply secured a mid-season transfer to the Rabbitohs when he first heard from Bennett after which a few months later he put pen to paper.

The probability to play underneath Bennett once more was a driving drive for the 28-year-old, who like Wallace, had already skilled the Bennett magic on the Broncos.

“When he first came (back) to the Broncos he had that aura about him that when he spoke you listened,” Nikorima advised

“He still does now, I just give him a little more cheek than I did back then.

“Back then, I swear he did this on purpose, but he used to call me (my brother’s name) Jayden — we were training together — and he used to call Jayden, Kodi.”

But Bennett has a lot extra to supply than only a nice relationship together with his gamers — and a cheeky sense of humour. The recreation has reworked since his rookie season as a primary grade coach in 1987 and but even in spite of everything this time he stays on the prime.

Wallace believes that’s as a result of Bennett has “adapted to the modern game and rule changes.”

“Every year there’s something different and I think one of the great things about him is he adapts his structures — the way we train isn’t exactly the same as when I was with him in 2015,” he mentioned.

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