Brisbane Broncos coach Wayne Bennett has had one of his trademark grumbles, berating the NRL over State of Origin scheduling and claiming the workload for his players at Origin time could put the Broncos' premiership hopes at risk.
Bennett used his press conference on Thursday to voice his all-too-familiar opinions of the Origin series, expressing concerns over player fatigue.
"We have a bigger challenge than just playing footy after Origin. We have to play three games in eight days with our absolute best players involved in all those games, and we have to do it twice," Bennett said.
Bennett has been here before. Many times he has complained that players have too much on their plates when backing up for their NRL teams after Origin. This issue is particularly close to Bennett's heart because teams he coaches are usually packed with Origin players.
But here's the thing:
- Bennett has no reason to complain. In his 22 full seasons at the Broncos, Bennett masterminded six premierships. That's triple the number of any other club.
- In those six premiership years, the Broncos provided an average of 9.5 players to Queensland representative teams. Again, that's nearly triple the contribution of any other club.
In other words, Bennett has been hugely successful in the past with players who've slogged it out through an Origin series. It's tough on the players, and clearly frustrating to him, but it doesn't stop his teams winning titles.
Bennett alluded on Thursday to the 2011 season, when as coach of the Dragons, his club was knocked around by Origin.
"We led the competition by four points by the start of Origin, then we had nine players in Origin and they came back from a tough series and we never regained our momentum. We never got it back," he said.
Bennett also pointed the finger at players who complained about backing up after Origin but also pocketed $30,000 for playing in the series, saying they can't have it both ways when it comes to player welfare.
It's a fair point, but so is the fact that six Bennett-coached teams have managed to overcome Origin fatigue, take the title and relish in the royalties.
That's the bottom line here. Good players get picked for Origin. They get tired. But often, they still manage to win the competition. Which is why Bennett's plea for the NRL to change Origin scheduling will again likely fall on deaf ears at NRL HQ.
You have to wonder what stance Bennett would take if his Broncos centre Jack Reed injured himself playing for England's international side -- coached by Wayne Bennett.