Bennett’s plan to cure NRL migraine
BRISBANE coach Wayne Bennett believes cracking down on the time wasted during NRL games is a better way than the proposed reduction in the interchange from eight to six players.
The NRL competition committee will meet on Friday with a push to downsize the interchange bench said to be on the agenda as administrators address the spate of injuries this season.
One school of thought is that more interchanges have increased the speed of the game and resulted in more high-impact injuries between bigger and stronger players.
There is plenty of support for the notion, with retired half Matthew Johns of the belief the NRL should settle at four bench players per team, without the ability to return once you leave the field.
But Bennett, who has coached rugby league for more than 40 years and won seven first-grade premierships, says there's an easier way to address the injury concerns that needs trying first.
"We've got to fix up the amount of time being wasted it the game; if we fix that up we may not have to go to six," he said.
"There's that much time wasted at the moment it's embarrassing as a coach."
The interchange was dropped from 10 to eight last season and resulted in the total number of games missed through injury dropping from 975 to 813.
But Bennett rattled off a long list of areas that he said needed tightening up, subsequently increasing player fatigue and rendering any interchange tweaks redundant.
Captains talking to referees, minor injuries stopping games, time to pack scrums, take drop-outs, players walking off after being sin-binned and video referee delays were among his pet gripes.
"If we don't fix this stuff, they will find a way to extend the game out further, because teams are all looking for a break and they use it strategically to get an advantage," he said.
"One of the things that makes a great game of football is the ability to adapt to game at the time and a quick changeover puts the other team under pressure.
"There's a lot of stuff in the game where there is a ball on the ground, it's turned over, we stop the game, everyone has to be back perfectly in the line.
"All it does is give people more time to get their breath back ... no fan wants to sit there and watch nothing happening."
It came as Bennett also singled out under-fire recruit Jack Bird heading into Brisbane's clash with Manly on Saturday.
Bird's move to right centre is the latest effort to spark something in Brisbane's prized recruit, with his time in the halves only exacerbating his woes.
Bird is yet to contribute a try assist or even break the line in a Broncos jersey since the utility's high-profile move from Cronulla.
The switch comes at the expense of James Roberts, who will move to the left and form a potentially deadly combination with Anthony Milford, Corey Oates and Darius Boyd.
"I wanted to help him get back to his form and part of the process there is to position him where he's comfortable and take a bit of pressure off him," Bennett said of Bird.
"Confidence is something ... you can take them to water but can't make them drink.
"He knows I've got confidence in him and that he's wanted at the club."
Bennett rubbished the notion that Bird wanted out at Red Hill, saying that every new recruit faced the same transitional struggles.
"I remember Darren Smith coming here and Alf (Allan Langer) saying we've got the wrong Smith," Bennett said, referring to Darren's brother Jason.
"I can't think of a player we've brought here in my time that hasn't struggled.
"The Broncos are the toughest club in the NRL to come to; the profile here, pressure here and expectations here."
Manly coach Trent Barrett has known Jack Bird long enough to ensure he remains in their plans on Saturday.
Barrett said he was one of several Broncos boasting individual brilliance that they'd have to contain.
"I haven't been across what's going on (with his form this season) but I've known Jack for a long time and he's a terrific talent," Barrett said on Friday.
"I coached Jack in the (New South Wales) Country side; he's one of those players who can play anywhere, is a terrific athlete and a good ball runner."