The South Sydney coach was in good form for his first day. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
The South Sydney coach was in good form for his first day. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

Welcome to Wayne Bennett, Sydney

New South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett bizarrely revealed he was "happy" his former club Brisbane sacked him - despite threats he would walk out of a press conference if pressed on the drama.

Bennett admitted he had spoken to Rabbitohs players while still in charge at Brisbane, which is believed to have triggered his dismissal, but says he arrives at Souths with a "clear conscience."

The seven-time premiership-winning coach spent his first day at Redfern on Tuesday watching Souths train before conducting a 15-minute media conference in front of a packed media contingent and about 50 hardcore Rabbitohs fans.

Wayne Bennett just loves a big press conference. (Phil Hillyard)
Wayne Bennett just loves a big press conference. (Phil Hillyard)

Just 24 hours after a bizarre cat-and-mouse game when he arrived at Sydney airport following his messy departure from Brisbane, Bennett couldn't escape questions about his former club.

Souths media manager Jeremy Monahan even approached journalists before Tuesday's press conference warning them Bennett would walk away if questions about Brisbane were raised.

But to his credit, the 68-year-old didn't follow through on the bizarre threat, taking several pointed digs at his former club, including his desire to be sacked.

 

Rabbitohs supporters hang out for a view of the new boss. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
Rabbitohs supporters hang out for a view of the new boss. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

 

"Because it was important to me. I've been a team member all my life. I live team, talk team and some of my team had been isolated and cut out. I couldn't walk out on them," Bennett said

"Do I look heartbroken? I was happy to be sacked. Leave it at that, I was happy.

"I'm pleased I came here on my terms in the sense that I didn't have to leave the Broncos. I was asked to leave, sacked, whatever terminology you want to use, it doesn't worry me.

"I've got a clear conscience.

"You don't get a chance to say goodbye to anyone when they sack you and tell you don't come back into the building. That's fine, we'll all get over it.

"Look, I'm not here to discuss that (being sacked by voicemail) today, I want to talk about South Sydney, that's what I'll do. That can wait for another say."

 

The South Sydney coach was in good form for his first day. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)
The South Sydney coach was in good form for his first day. (Mark Kolbe/Getty Images)

 

The Daily Telegraph clarified with Bennett that he actually wanted to coach Souths next season but also wanted to remain in Brisbane to support his players.

"I'm pleased someone is kind of getting the message. You're a bit slow guys but you're kind of getting it now," Bennett said.

Former Rabbitohs coach Anthony Seibold claimed Bennett had been calling Souths stars Sam Burgess, Alex Johnston and Damien Cook.

 

It was all smiles at Redfern. (Phil Hillyard)
It was all smiles at Redfern. (Phil Hillyard)

 

"Yeah I did on the request of (Souths general manager) Shane Richardson because they were guys under contract and they wanted to keep them here," Bennett said. "I was going to be the long-term coach here from 2020. I talked about contracts.

"In Alex, in his particular case, he was thinking about moving clubs in the middle of his contract and Souths weren't keen to lose him. That was purely what the discussions were about."

Asked did he reference 2019 in those discussions, Bennett said: "I may well have referenced them but if I did, it wasn't that I was coming here to coach straight away because I didn't know that.

"I made a decision to stay at the Broncos and I'm here under other circumstances. Nothing that's happened over the last six months has made any sense."

 

How will Bennett’s Bunnies take shape? (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
How will Bennett’s Bunnies take shape? (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

 

Bennett stressed he wanted to retain Cook, the NSW and Souths hooker.

"Absolutely, that's what I rang him," Bennett said.

Bennett, looking different wearing red and green, revealed he had little to do with Souths co-owner Russell Crowe during contract negotiations.

"I don't know Russell at all. I met him once or twice and everyone tells me he's a good bloke. Sam (Burgess) says he's a great bloke. If Sam says he's a good bloke, that's all I need to know," Bennett said.

"I've had hardly any dealings with him. The longest I ever talked to him was in Denver when we played the Test match over there with England. He turned up to watch the game and I spent 10 minutes talking to him there.

"But we never talked about coming to Souths at that time because it wasn't on the agenda. We just generally talked. I got a nice message from him."

 

The veteran coach shows it’s never too late for a fresh start. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)
The veteran coach shows it’s never too late for a fresh start. (AAP Image/Dean Lewins)

 

Souths will be Bennett's fifth NRL club having previously coached Canberra, Brisbane, St George Illawarra and Newcastle.

"(My emotions) were a bit mixed. Mixed good. I had a look in the mirror when I put the shirt on, it looked OK so I kept going," Bennett said.

"It (arriving now) was never part of the plans, never part of the discussion in the early piece when I agreed to come here in 2020. It was never on the agenda.

"There was a lot of stuff going on behind-the-scenes which I wasn't always privy to and were never at my instigation but were happening. So I wasn't unfamiliar about what could happen."

Bennett arrived at the outdoor press conference inside Redfern Oval to the applause of Souths supporters.

"Welcome Wayne," one woman yelled.

Bennett said: "It's been a long time coming. I was nearly here (at Souths) seven years but it didn't happen. I had my first training session and it all went very well. It was highly organised and it will make it very easy for me to make the transition very little notice."

Bennett dismissed the importance of what will be a much-hyped round eight match against Brisbane next season.

"You guys (the media) will make a big deal of but it won't be a big deal to me," Bennett said.

Pressed on how he will handle the notoriously tough Sydney rugby league media each week, Bennett, tongue-in-cheek, said: "I can't wait. It will be the highlight of my time here. I will go to bed of a night waiting to see you the next morning.

"I know who is pleased I'm here, Todd Greenberg, take some pressure off him."



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