Bennett jokes about kissing players amid virus ‘hysteria’
WAYNE Bennett has scoffed at the government's edict on social distancing to combat coronavirus and has backed ARL Commission chairman Peter V'landys in his tireless efforts to keep the NRL premiership alive.
Speaking on the eve of Souths' clash with the Broncos at an empty Suncorp Stadium tomorrow, Bennett said he was ignoring the "hysteria" surrounding the COVID-19 crisis as the super coach declared the show must go on.
The ARL Commission will meet today to discuss the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on rugby league, but Bennett says he is taking a business-as-usual approach to football and life.
As part of social-distancing directives, the media has been asked to stand two metres away during interviews with NRL players and coaches, but Bennett was bemused by the edict.
"A couple of players kissed me this morning, I don't know why you are all standing back there," Bennett told the media at his press conference today.
"It's crazy if you make it crazy but if you be balanced about it and realise everything is not perfect on any given day, it's the best outcome to forget the hysteria going on around us.
"Look, I am happy to talk to you standing beside you, I don't know what the hell is going on.
"I've been with the players and we have been close to one another.
"I'm just doing what I'm told."
The NRL is financing a private charter flights for the Rabbitohs to embark on a hit-and-run mission to Suncorp Stadium. Bennett's Bunnies will leave tomorrow morning, head straight to Suncorp Stadium, then fly home to Sydney straight after full-time.
Amid fears the government is set to order a full-scale lockdown of all Australians, Bennett said it is critical the NRL pushes on and honours the code's $1.8 billion broadcast deal.
"We're doing what we are told and that's the NRL's decision (to travel on game day)," he said.
"I was happy to stay in a hotel but they said it's not what they want us to do.
"I'm not annoyed, I'm just following instructions. I'm not smart enough so I'm happy to take direction from the game. Hopefully the experts have given us the best advice, I've accepted what it is.
"I'm elated the game is going ahead. The chairman (V'landys) is doing a great job, Todd (Greenberg, NRL CEO) has been upfront, Clint Newton (RLPA boss) has been great so we are on the same page and want to play rugby league.
"We have fractured the game in the past and had to put it back together, but this time there is unison and I am pleased to be a part of that.
"A lot of people earn a living from the game. If we can stay on the field we can provide something in a time where everybody needs to get away from the news services on the virus and look forward to their teams playing football.
"If we keep the main show on centre stage and pay a bit of price we are happy enough to do that."
The 70-year-old Bennett says his may consider sitting behind the goalposts tomorrow at an empty Suncorp Stadium and says his old age comes with advantages during the COVID-19 outbreak.
"Because I have reached the 70 mark the boys want me to go early to the shops and get toilet paper for them," Bennett said.
"Adam Reynolds was happy I could take my senior pass over and buy some toilet paper ... we have it covered."