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3 days ago
St George Illawarra players deny the continued speculation around coach Nathan Brown's future has started to become a major distraction to their 2008 NRL campaign.
As the Dragons aim to build on their return to form in Saturday's clash with Canberra, fullback Ben Hornby insisted reports the club had spoken to departing Brisbane coach Wayne Bennett about the coaching job next year would have no affect on the playing group.
"We never talk about it to be honest, it's not something that we ever talk about so it's not much a of a drama for us," said the representative back.
"It's something us as players try not to think about too much.
"Obviously it's pretty much out of our hands, it's up to the board and the powers at the club that look after that sort of stuff.
"But for the players, we just go out there and want to prove that we're a tight knit side and that we can do well in this competition.
"It's obviously, I imagine, a distraction on Browny, but as players we're not thinking about it too much.
"We just want to concentrate on what we're asked to do and that's to win games."
Off-contract at the end of the season, Brown had seemingly given himself and the club a week's reprieve from talk over the Dragons job in 2009 after Monday's impressive win over the Gold Coast.
But the afterglow of that 30-12 triumph lasted little more than a day with a News Limited newspaper report claiming Dragons chief executive Peter Doust had already had talks with Bennett, with Brown almost certain to be replaced.
The club refused to deny or confirm the report.
"No comment, other than to say the process is deliberate and structured and that the board is considering a number of people whom they consider may be suitable," said Doust.
The issue, though, is unlikely to die down anytime soon with Bennett's availability for next season ensuring several coaches are under heavy pressure to retain their jobs in 2009.
Brown and the Bulldogs' Steve Folkes have long been seen as the two coaches most under the pump, although Penrith mentor Matthew Elliott is facing increasing scrutiny after the Panthers poor start to 2008.
While still only two rounds into the season, there is every chance Bennett will settle his future in the next few months with the six-time premiership-winning coach in such high demand.
As well as the Dragons, Bulldogs, and possibly Panthers, North Queensland are also in the hunt for Bennett with the Cowboys opting against re-signing current coach Graham Murray.