All the talk today is about Ricky Stuart getting himself into water for allegedly berating Rugby League World Cup officials after the Australians shock loss; but there was just as much emotion pumping from the usually poker faced Wayne Bennett as the Kiwis took the ultimate prize. The timeless Bennett unable to resist the fist pumps and high fives on Saturday night as his consultant role helped take the Kiwis to the top of the Rugby League world.
The experienced Bennett is often criticised for being devoid of emotion and not ‘promoting’ the game in press conferences and other media events. The former Broncos coach who some say only experienced such extensive coaching success after having so many juniors at his disposal in Brisbane, proved his haters wrong again – taking on the tough gig of moulding the inexperienced New Zealand side, but coming out the other side and ultimately slapping his former employers in the face as he helped plot the downfall of the Kangaroos.
New Zealand should write Bennett a blank cheque and ensure the experienced campaigner remains on-board as a consultant to the national Rugby League side, unlike the mistake the Kiwis made in their Union ranks by choosing Graham Henry over Robbie Deans; surely they won’t mess this one up.
While Bennett and the Kiwi squad would still be sucking back their cigars, the aftermath of the emotional boilover continues to engulf Roos coach Ricky Stuart as he fights accusations of an alleged verbal spray aimed at World Cup match officials including referee Ashley Klein.
The Australian coach wouldn’t be drawn today on any of the allegations or discuss his future as head coach when approached by reporters at a charity golf event in Canberra for CanTeen. Such is the irony and theatre of Rugby League; only 48 hours ago – Australian media outlets reported that Ricky Stuart had been offered the national coaching role for life.
But his Kangaroos and Cronulla pupil Paul Gallen provided the clearest evidence of an alleged conspiracy theory in the Australian camp by referring to “a stitch-up” in an interview on Channel 9.
Stuart is believed to be furious at several calls during the game that cost the Roos big-time and made accusations that an Australian loss suited the organisers and the future of the World Cup, which, up until the final, had been written off as a one-horse race after the Kangaroos’ crushing defeats of the Kiwis, England, Papua New Guinea and Fiji.
Stuart made the bizarre claims of a conspiracy to a startled Carr immediately after the final at Suncorp Stadium, while the victorious Kiwis were still celebrating exuberantly.
It seems to be a long bow to draw; while Stuart may be feeling hard done by – when you think back to the game, it could have been far worse. Despite the Slater error and even the Monaghan penalty try – had Benji Marshall grounded the early grubber and several other opportunities fall their way, the Kiwis could have been even further ahead. While a massive upset in terms of the game, praise should be heaped on the under-dog Kiwi side – a mammoth effort to beat the Kangaroos; who many considered to be one of the best green and gold sides of the modern era.