Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett will coach the England rugby league team on a two-year deal encompassing the 2016 Four Nations and the 2017 World Cup, it was announced overnight.
This is in some ways surprising and in some ways not.
It's surprising because this laconic, let-your-deeds-do-the-talking 66-year-old is more quintessentially Queensland than the Great Barrier Reef and cane toads.
It's also surprising because Bennett is current coach of the Brisbane Broncos, the 2015 NRL runners-up who last year led the Grand Final until literally the last second.
In the old days, NRL coaches often doubled-up on state or international coaching duties. But not anymore. Representative coaching is a full-time gig these days. It's extremely unusual for a top coach to coach a state or country as well as a club team.
But then, most coaches aren't Wayne Bennett, who has won seven NRL premierships, numerous State of Origin and Test series, and the respect of the rugby league for the way he imparts both skills and personal discipline. Generations of players openly attribute their sporting and personal success to even the briefest stints working under Bennett.
England rugby league no doubt recognises all this, and has just sacked a pretty well-credentialled coach in 44-year-old Steve McNamara, under whose tutelage England beat New Zealand 2-1 in a Test series last November. That was the first time they'd won anything significant in years. But there's clearly the belief that England needs to go to the next level.
Bennett is the man to make that happen. Where he goes, results follow. Six premierships in his first 20 year stint with the Broncos are not bad. Before that he made a grand final as co-coach of the Canberra Raiders, in the early days of that club when they were the team you hoped your team was playing on the weekend.
When Bennett went to St George Illawarra, he took one of the most storied clubs in league and gave them a new story, steering the club to an overdue premiership in his second season, 2010. Even at the Newcastle Knights, he did OK, getting the club within one match of a grand final. In an era marked by financial turmoil and player turmoil, that was quite an achievement.
And when he co-coached New Zealand in 2008, they won the Rugby League World Cup.
You get the idea. Wayne Bennett gets results. Whether or not anyone in the England dressing room can understand his Queensland drawl is a whole 'nother story.Suggest a correction