Wayne Bennett Q & A

As per the David Gallop Q & A a while ago, the questions will be in bold, with Bennett’s answers in the normal font.

Have you been surprised by the success of the All Stars concept?
No, I wasn’t. I thought it was an outstanding concept and I wanted to make a contribution, that is why I wanted to get involved.

With Benji and Lockyer automatic selections – who are you thinking will start at 5/8 and half back?
Darren will start at five-eighth and Benji will start at halfback.  It’s not his preferred position but it is the only way it can work for us.

How do you prepare a team who have never played together in such a short space of time?
It is very tough, and it is also the start of the season. We set out last year to make sure the players enjoyed the week, but they are all quality players so they gel very quickly. It is more important that they embrace the concept – its not like preparing for a Test Match.

Fullback must be one of the toughest to predict with Boyd, Slater, Hayne, Dugan and Gidley – what type of fullback will you be looking for?
Any of those would be excellent – each are great and I don’t really have a preference.

You want fans to ‘think like you’ in picking the side – any other advice? or tips on what you would like?
I would really want a guy like Cameron Smith, I’d also love to see Sam Burgess if possible – he was outstanding last year. But it is really tough and it is up to the fans.

Hi Wayne – Looking at the squads the Roosters have a lot of good options in the backs – Carney, Pearce, Anasta or even Kenny-Dowell – who would you like to see selected?
You know Lockyer and Marshall are playing, so we will need to look at centres and forwards as well, but also a guy like Carney can cover multiple positions like five-eighth, halfback and also fullback.

What position do you believe will be hardest to fill i.e. too many good players around?
Across the whole team is tough, you can only pick one player from each team – just look at Melbourne – you have to pick one from Smith, Cronk, Slater, Blair -it is a very tough task, and that is the same at all the clubs.

With the vice captains no longer instant picks in the NRL All Stars squad, this means Cam Smith is battling, Cronk, Slater and Blair for a spot in the team. Would you have any preference over any of those players?
My preference is Smith because he is in the top 2 or 3 players in the game and he was great for us last year, especially when you look at all the fullbacks up for option, our halves are already covered with Marshall and Lockyer.

What do you make of the indigenous side – it’s pretty impressive? Do you think the NRL side will be able to match them, especially in the backs?
We’ll match them, but when you look at our options we have a lot of quality players. Mark Gasnier is back, guys like Uate and Vatavei are there, and I’m confident we certainly have a great side if you include Marshall and Lockyer running the side.

Who do you see as the biggest threat in the Indigenous All-Stars squad?
I think Thurston, Prince and Preston Campbell have wonderful skills and know the team really well.

Are you hoping that fans pick players who can cover multiple positions to give you more options or do you think having more specialized players in their preferred positions will help with the structure of the team?
I’d rather specialist players in the starting side, but there are a few players we have mentioned like Todd Carney and Kurt Gidley who would be great to cover multiple positions.

With players like Manu Vatuvei needing surgery in the off-season, would you prefer the fans to not pick those players who might have to rush back from their recovery to play for the NRL All Stars?
The NRL continually updates the injured players and advise you through the clubs who is available and I think it is a good system.

Moving forward, would you like to ever see selection for the all stars to include players from other nations/competitions say Super League?
I think that is something to consider down the track, it would be difficult, but the more personnel we can get into it, the bigger and better it will become.

Do you have any preference on whether the fans should pick a more experienced team or one full of youth?
I think you need a balance, if the fans can do that for me I would appreciate that. Experience is a great thing, but the young guys are also really exciting.

How does the atmosphere and preparation for the All-Stars camp differ from say Origin or Grand Final week?
I just want the players to train properly and be disciplined but also enjoy the week, and we did that last year. It is a great week and all the players really appreciated being involved and getting into the community. It was a fun week.

What are your thoughts on the front rowers for the All Stars side? Any preferences in this area?
Shillington has been great – playing some great football in Canberra. Matt Scott has been great especially in the Four Nations. Michael Weyman is great value but might not be fit. Adam Blair is an absolute quality forward, as is Ben Hannant and also Roy Asotasi, so they are all great options.

With the All-Stars match played so early in the year, is it important the fans target 80 minute players, rather than impact style players, especially with the heat and lack of match fitness?
There is unlimited interchange and 7 players on the bench, so it doesn’t really matter but if it was NRL rules it would be extremely tough, but the rules allow for flexibility.

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