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Former assistant supports return of Bennett to Brisbane

CONFIDENT RETURN: Wayne Bennett celebrates with the Broncos during his former spell with the club.
CONFIDENT RETURN: Wayne Bennett celebrates with the Broncos during his former spell with the club. COLIN WHELAN

THE return of Wayne Bennett to the Brisbane Broncos can only be a good thing, according to former Bronco and Laidley product Peter Ryan.

Ryan, who achieved three premiership titles playing under Bennett at the Broncos and was later an assistant coach to him, believes the club would have been foolish not to have snapped up Bennett once he was available.

"Bennett is a freak with regards to coaching," Ryan said.

"That's not taking anything away from Anthony Griffin.

"He's done an admirable job.

"Unfortunately for him he hasn't got the results required. If I was on the board and had the option, you would say 'yes, put on Wayne', in a heartbeat. It's common sense to me if he's available."

Bennett's current stint with the Newcastle Knights could be considered the nearest he has come to failing at the top level.

Bennett took the Canberra Raiders to their first grand final in 1987, guided the Broncos to six premiership titles, won four State-of-Origin series as coach, led the Dragons to their first premiership since 1979 and helped the Kiwis win the 2008 World Cup.

After reaching the preliminary final last season the Knights are vying for this year's wooden spoon.

But Ryan does not believe Bennett's time as a top-level coach has passed him by.

He backed the 64-year-old to make the tough decisions to ensure the Broncos don't fall behind.

"I don't think age is an issue," Ryan said. "Everyone respects him.

"In the past he has reinvented himself a few times.

"Even when I was playing.

"Who gets rid of Wally Lewis (as Bennett did in at the Broncos in 1990)? He's made the tough decisions and got results out of it."

Another of those tough decisions came at the end of 2005, when Bennett got rid of Broncos assistant coaches Kevin Walters, Glenn Lazarus and Gary Belcher.

It was following their departure that Ryan joined as defence coach and the Broncos won the 2006 grand final.

It says much about Bennett that Walters, also an Ipswich product, didn't hold a grudge and resumed his relationship under Bennett as an assistant coach at the Knights.

It is reported Walters will join Bennett at the Broncos and take over the top job when Bennett's contract expires.

"For the majority of Kevvy's football career he's followed Wayne," Ryan said.

"He's the old-time Darius Boyd.

"He's worked with Craig Bellamy, plus Wayne and was head coach at the Catalans (in the UK Super League) so his resume speaks for itself."

'Maybe it's not all about the money'

PETER Ryan no longer has any official involvement in rugby league.

Instead, he spends his time running his mining parts and machinery export business, PHC Supply Co.

But the former Bronco knows the way Bennett thinks, having worked closely with him as a player and assistant coach for years.

Bennett's move, reportedly leaving St George in the lurch at the last minute having all but signed for the Dragons, has been attributed largely to the $4 million he is expected to earn for his three-year contract with Brisbane.

But Ryan is not so sure it is all about money.

Ryan is in a better position than many to judge, having served as a player under Bennett from 1993-99 and then as an assistant coach at the Broncos.

"Who knows," Ryan said.

"He might have gone there for nothing.

"Being away from his family may have taken its toll, with Wayne being so family-oriented."

Topics:  brisbane broncos wayne bennett