ONE thing I learned in my seven years as communications manager at the Broncos was that Wayne Bennett does have a sense of humour.
And around this time of the year he doesn't mind the spotlight being trained on him.
Bennett's public persona may well be of a dry, dour footy coach, whose least enjoyable venture each week is fronting the post-match press conference.
But he can be the life of the party, particularly in the company of those he respects most - his players.
He may only utter a few words, and often never elaborate, but it will be a headline grabber.
That was the case this week when he refused to confirm or deny the ever-ascending whispers that he is headed to the Cowboys next season.
His 'I can't give you an iron-clad guarantee about anything in this game' answer is typical coach speak from the man whose favourite pastime is sending journos on a wild goose chase.
The obvious conclusion is that he under-estimated the late-season run of success by the Knights. But again, could it merely be a ruse by the wily old coach to put the spotlight on him, and take the glare away from his team?
Today he would still be giggling to himself that just about everyone in the media has swallowed his bait.
FINING David Shillington for making comments about the off-field issues which have cruelled the Raiders in recent years says more about the insecurity of club management than it does about the insubordination of their co-captain.
As a member of the Prime Minister's team, Shillington was asked a raft of questions concerning the Raiders and answered them - as he always does - articulately and with honesty.
Because his answers weren't mind numbing, they attracted a headline or two as well as the attention of the Raiders hierarchy.
He dared to make such wicked comments as the players were hoping Andrew Dunemann might have been their new coach; that Gen Y players attracted star status so early in their careers they thought they were bigger than the team; and he delivered a veiled criticism at his own club for not coming down tougher on poor off-field behaviour.
"If a player mucks up and is not dropped from the team because the club is worried he might leave or the team may not win that week, that's when the devil in players is created," was one comment which apparently broke Raiders' media protocol.
Sure clubs need to have rules, but commonsense should also be a prerequisite. Shillington is intelligent, well-educated and a genuine leader in our game. And most of what he said would ring true with the vast majority of frustrated Raiders fans.
To fine him, and effectively gag him, merely gives rise to what many of us believe - the colour and character in rugby league is slowly dying.
Sam must be good
REPORTS out of England are that new Warriors fullback Sam Tomkins is one very special player. And seeing what the Kiwis have paid for him, he would need to be.
According to media reports, the Warriors have paid Wigan a transfer fee of $1.2 million for the 24-year-old, plus $750,000 a season for three years.
Not only does that make him the highest-paid English rugby league player in the game - more than Sam Burgess - his pay packet is in the same ball park as the likes of Cameron Smith, Johnathan Thurston and Robbie Farah.
He does have an impressive record. He has scored 144 tries in 150 appearances for Wigan and 16 in 15 Tests for England, has won two Challenge Cups and a grand final and the 2012 Man of Steel award.
If he brings that kind of form to the NRL he will be a sensation.
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