The NSW Blues have been named for the first game of the 2017 #Origin series.
6 days ago - 2 Likes
This is something more than just Wayne Bennett leaving Newcastle and heading back to Brisbane.
Everyone knows his heart is, and always has been, north of the border and that's understandable - that's where his family is.
Not many people would have a problem with him going back to a club he spent 21 years with and won six premierships for, but the main problem they would have an issue with is how he's gone about it.
It's been well-documented over the last 12 hours that Bennett was on the phone to Lachlan Murdoch yesterday.
This is the same day he was meant to be preparing his current side (the Knights) for their biggest and most emotional match in their history.
This round, and in particular yesterday, was meant to be about Alex McKinnon.
And by and large everyone involved did a tremendous job except, it seems, the coach on the day of the event.
This is the man who appeared to have a strong bond with McKinnon, wrote an article about him and choked up during Erin Molan's interview on last week's Footy Show.
But yesterday, while he should have been preparing and helping his side keep their emotions in check, he had Mr Murdoch on the other end of the phone stitching up a new deal.
What was so important about that phone call that it couldn't have waited 24 hours? Why did have to be yesterday?
It now asks another question - what legacy will Wayne Bennett leave in the Hunter?
He finds himself in a very similar position to that which Brian Smith found himself in during the back end of 2009 when he coached the Knights. He didn't see the season out.
When Bennett signed on the dotted line in Newcastle expectations were rightfully high, but his CV allowed for that.
Seven premierships. That says it all. But not only that, he had his sides playing on a consistent level.
He wanted a challenge, but by walking away from the Knights a year early it seems he's taking the easy option.
Another theory could be to question whether he actually is a good coach, or just a good manager of men.
He's been blessed with many high-quality playing rosters in his time and the only one which has failed has been with a team who, with all due respect to the players involved, hasn't been as good as those he had at the Broncos for 20 years and that which he inherited at the Dragons.
Since 2012 the Knights haven't gone anywhere. In fact, they've arguably gone backwards - even allowing for their preliminary final appearance last season.
But it could be argued a strong six to eight-week finish to 2013 papered over the cracks, and they've been found out this season even allowing for everything the club has been through.
The Knights fumbled and bumbled their way through 2012, they did likewise for half of 2013 and they've done the same for all of 2014.
Bennett said at various times in 2012 he "didn't know which team was going to get off the bus". Surely that's the coach's job to know.
And then yesterday he basically admitted to giving up on the Knights.
‘‘We finished up raining on our own parade. It's just been such a crazy season, I've given up trying to work out why,'' he said.
‘‘Maybe I'm too hard. Maybe there are a lot of those issues that still linger with them regarding Alex. You'd have to ask each one of them individually, and I don't intend to do that."
If that's the case the Knights need a coach who will talk to the players and that coach is not Bennett.
The time is now to start preparing for 2015.