Dave Craven: Wayne Bennett the right man for the job - now he just has to prove it

New England coach, Wayne Bennett..
New England coach, Wayne Bennett..
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IS IT just me or am I missing something completely obvious with the whole Wayne Bennett story?

The RFL have just announced they have secured the most successful coach in the modern era of world rugby league as the man to take charge of their national team.

Now, given England or Great Britain, whichever guise they come in, haven’t won a major international championship of any note, or even a Test series against Australia, since 1972, to me this news was something to be celebrated wildly.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting for one minute that England will now automatically simply win the Four Nations, sweeping all before them, when that tournament occurs towards the end of this year.

Australian Bennett will, of course, need many things to go in his favour to help turn the tide but, to my mind, at least we have got the best man available for the job in hand.

That surely is the most important matter here. I am the first to criticise when the RFL get things wrong but, in this instance, Nigel Wood should be applauded for going out and getting the best in the business.

Yet, remarkably, so many people are berating the decision arguing that an Englishman should have been put in charge.

Many of these will, no doubt, be the very same people bemoaning the fact that neither England nor Great Britain has won anything of significant prestige for nearly half a century.

You can’t have it both ways.

Bennett, now aged 66, is the most successful coach in Australian rugby league history with seven Grand Final wins. He has also guided Queensland to State of Origin success and, of course, masterminded that stunning 44-4 Tri-Nations final vanquishing of Brian Noble’s Great Britain in 2004.

Critics will point to the following year, however, when Bennett oversaw a Tri-Nations final defeat at the same venue against New Zealand, the first time the Kangaroos had lost a series or tournament since France defeated them in both of their Tests during the 1978 tour.

He resigned barely a week later, his brief two-year stint as Australia boss coming to an abrupt halt, but I’ll take that as a minor blemish in an otherwise staggering career.

I am not in anyway suggesting any of Brian McDermott, Shaun Wane or Daryl Powell are not good enough for the role.

Indeed, I would happily see any one of those three take control of the national side as they all have their own qualities that would make them ideal.

However, I don’t think any of them – if there had been a job interview – would have been banging on the doors of Red Hall to demand answers as to why Bennett had got the nod before them.

Steve McNamara has done a great job in bringing a club mentality to England and has added many edifying parts to the squad’s set-up, the product of which was last autumn’s series win over New Zealand.

You could not meet a nicer guy or someone who loves the sport as much or is as dedicated.

However, after more than five years at the helm, to get to the next level – winning a Four Nations or World Cup – I feel the role did require a change, something the RFL also clearly agrees with.

In Bennett, the RFL believe they have got the greatest. Now it is over to him to prove it.