It’s never easy to get the timing right when you are coming to the end of your career as a player or a coach – with two of the game’s great figures Jonathon Thurston and Wayne Bennett – having to withstand a barrage of criticism this week.
It’s hard to believe that Thurston (who has achieved everything in the game) is staring down the barrel of receiving his first wooden spoon as he contemplates the last six weeks of his career.
His form has been unfairly criticised in my view but no one can deny his competitive spirit and that will be on show against the Knights tomorrow night as he comes up against one of his long time rivals in Mitchell Pearce.
To his credit he has played in every game this year and he has been playing behind a beaten pack of forwards nearly every week and a team that has had more issues than the Woman’s’ Weekly – including some long-term injuries to key players.
Before the season started – the Cowboys were being talked about as genuine Premiership contenders and their forward pack was being talked up massively with the addition of Jordan McClean (a World Cup winning front rower) along with the return from injury of Matt Scott.
Toss in the game’s most damaging ball runner in Jason Taumalolo and two Origin back rowers in Gavin Cooper and Coen Hess and it defies belief that their year could deteriorate so dramatically.
There are suggestions that McLean and Scott could return tomorrow night and I have a feeling that the Knights could be headed into a good, old fashioned ambush in Townsville.
One of the key indicators for a ball player nearing the end of his career – is the lack of desire to take the line on due to a fear of getting hit – which can be in the back of your mind.
The only thing Thurston was guilty of last week against the Dragons was taking the line on too much, if anything, and he ran for a total of 170 plus metres.
If I was coaching him this week – I would be asking him to play more patiently and build pressure with is outstanding kicking game to put the Knights’ defensive line under pressure.
And their coach Paul Green should be challenging his ‘over rated’ forward pack to play more aggressively and dominate the advantage line to give his half back the opportunity to win a few games and finish his career on the right note.
Uncertainty around your future as an NRL coach is never easy to handle and the speculation around Wayne Bennett’s tenure at the Broncos has captured the attention of the media this week.
After the failed attempt by the Broncos to sign Craig Bellamy – the focus has shifted onto Bennett’s future beyond 2019.
For the first time in his illustrious career – he has lost the support of the CEO and the board – which would suggest his career after 2019 at the Broncos is highly unlikely.
Despite this – he hasn’t lost the support of his team which has found some form of late winning four of their last five games– and it hasn’t stopped him from re-signing some of their best talent as the next generation of Broncos looks very strong.
Since his return – they have featured in the play-offs each year and narrowly missed a Premiership in 2016 against the Cowboys.
The bottom line is they haven’t won a premiership since 2006 and for a high-profile team like the Broncos – that is not acceptable.
Two questions need to be answered: who will Bennett coach in 2020 (assuming he wants to keep coaching) and who will succeed him at Brisbane?
Personally I believe Bennett (who is the England coach) will accept a head coaching position with a team like Wigan – which will allow him to keep an eye on the UK talent as he prepares the Poms for the World Cup in 2021.
The candidates to succeed him are few and far between – with Anthony Seibold (off contract at Souths in 2019) being talked about along with their current assistant coach Jason Demetriou.
A couple of wild cards could be: Kevin Walters who has a long-standing relationship with the club; Michael McGuire – a Premiership winner with Souths in 2014 or a former Broncos assist coach Stephen Kearney who is now doing a great job at the Warriors.
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