Wayne Bennett has said he might coach against Australia if asked.
Wayne Bennett has said he might coach against Australia if asked.

Like any good soap opera, the intrigue continues to build

AFTER a tumultuous few weeks that have generated almost as many headlines as the grand final build up, the dilemma has been deciphering which attention-grabbing episode will have the greatest impact on rugby league.

Will it be the momentous cash handouts to the NRL clubs, with the proviso the 16 franchises spend the money rationally?

Or will it be the appointment of Mal Meninga as Australia's first full-time national coach, on a reported salary of $300,000 a year?

Maybe some fans believe the seemingly endless whining of players concerning five-day turnarounds between games remains a major issue? Or could it be the uncertain futures of Will Hopoate, Tim Lafai and Peta Hiku?

For mine, the most bewildering revelation of the past week has been the admission by Wayne Bennett that he will coach against Australia at next year's World Cup - if asked. It's a case of the longest-serving and most-successful elite level coach giving the game's authorities the 'up yours'.

And in all honesty, who could blame him?

Irrespective of how the decision to appoint Meninga as national coach ahead of Bennett - or any other candidate for that matter - is viewed, it has been a soap opera. And if Bennett was interviewed for the job and subsequently told he was ineligible on the basis he was an NRL club coach, that is amateur hour stuff.

Bennett's dissent is spot on. If NRL coaches are barred from the job, then the likes of Craig Bellamy, Trent Robinson, Michael Maguire and Des Hasler will only be in the frame to coach their country if they forfeit their club job, or are sacked.

And with NRL coaches also seemingly not wanted at Origin level, their aspirations to go to the next level are doomed.

My observations are not a protest at Meninga's appointment. He will be an outstanding national coach and the likelihood of some elite players making themselves unavailable during his coaching tenure, is zilch.

But it does beg the question - why can the very best players represent their country, yet the elite coaches are barred?

Another piece of intrigue to emanate from a fascinating past few days was the call by Big Mal for the return of Kangaroo Tours, albeit on a 'mini' scale. He suggested the tours would be a 'carrot, to get the players excited'.

And having been lucky enough to be a part of half a dozen such tours, I can understand how a six-week tour of England and France at season's end, flying business class, staying in five-star hotels and training in state-of-the-art facilities would appeal to the players. But surely those currently protesting at player burnout could not agree to such an adventure?

Like any good soap opera, the intrigue continues to build.