Assistant coach Jason Demetriou with Wayne Bennett during South Sydney Rabbitohs training ahead of their first game of the season against the Sharks. Picture. Phil Hillyard
Assistant coach Jason Demetriou with Wayne Bennett during South Sydney Rabbitohs training ahead of their first game of the season against the Sharks. Picture. Phil Hillyard

I told you so: Bennett rips Broncos’ coaching blunder

Brisbane icon Wayne Bennett says his Souths assistant Jason Demetriou is ready for the NRL and claims the Broncos lost a potential 15-year coach after subjecting him to a "false" job interview.

Bennett now breaks his silence over his coaching future with the 70-year-old explaining his departure from Souths next year and why Demetriou, his former right-hand man at Brisbane, is the right choice to succeed him.

In February, the Rabbitohs released a statement confirming Demetriou would succeed Bennett in 2022, finally clearing the path for the 44-year-old to launch his career as an NRL head coach.

But if Bennett had his way, Demetriou would never have been lost to the Broncos, with the super coach making a recommendation two years ago to the Brisbane board for 'JD' to take charge at Red Hill in 2020.

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Demetriou was tipped to take over from Wayne Bennett at Brisbane. Photo: Phil Hillyard
Demetriou was tipped to take over from Wayne Bennett at Brisbane. Photo: Phil Hillyard

 

The Broncos board rejected that proposal. Bennett was eventually sacked, with Demetriou opting to follow him to South Sydney after losing out to Anthony Seibold in a four-way battle for the Broncos post.

Broncos CEO Paul White has consistently maintained the interview process - involving candidates Seibold, Demetriou, Kevin Walters and Michael Maguire - was consistent, thorough and transparent.

But as the Broncos reel from Thursday night's 59-0 loss to the Roosters, Bennett believes Demetriou did not get a fair hearing, insisting the rookie coach had the backing of Brisbane players.

"Jason was really disappointed to miss out on the Broncos job. They are a huge club and it's got great prestige, so of course he was disappointed," Bennett said.

"But I was honest with Jason. I advised him not to go for the Broncos interview because was never going to get the job.

"The Broncos were false on it. Everyone in the game knows the Broncos had their preferred candidate (Seibold).

"I remember ringing Jason from England (where Bennett was coaching the British team) and saying do not go for the interview.

"I think he knew he was a dead-man walking but he wanted to go to show them what he could have brought to the club."

The Broncos hired a panel to find their next coach comprising White, chairman Karl Morris and club legend Darren Lockyer. White was unable to attend Demetriou's interview due to personal reasons.

Bennett feared Brisbane were never really interested in Demetriou. Photo: AAP Image/Richard Walker
Bennett feared Brisbane were never really interested in Demetriou. Photo: AAP Image/Richard Walker

 

"I put Jason up as part of my package to the board. I offered to go on for another 12 months (in 2019) and then Jason would take over as head coach.

"Jason would have been a great coach at the Broncos. He would have delivered a great presentation in the job interview because I know how talented he is, but he was never going to get the job because the Broncos knew who they wanted.

"The entire playing group at the Broncos rated Jason. He had a great rapport with the players and would have been an excellent choice at the Broncos, but I'm just glad he will get his chance at Souths now."

Bennett is confident Demetriou will succeed at South Sydney. He won a maiden title with the Northern Pride in the Intrust Super Cup in 2014 before taking them to NRL State Championship success in the same year. Two years later, he steered Illawarra Cutters to NSW Cup glory in 2016.

In between those triumphs, Demetriou was an assistant to Cowboys coach Paul Green when North Queensland claimed their maiden NRL premiership in 2015.

Those string of successes are why Bennett believes Demetriou is ready for the top job when the veteran coach severs ties with the Rabbitohs at the end of 2021.

The club must now be question the decision to chase Anthony Seibold. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
The club must now be question the decision to chase Anthony Seibold. Photo: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images

 

"Souths asked me who I thought could do the job and I said it's Jason's time," Bennett said.

"Souths wanted to have a replacement after three years and I was happy to do that. Jason had to come here and prove to them he was the right man to replace me. He just wanted the opportunity.

"But Jason has earnt the respect here. They love his energy and what he brings so he will be the next coach of the Rabbitohs.

"It's a wonderful club. They have so much history, they have great players and they are a financial club as well. It's run well with an excellent CEO in Blake Solly so Jason will have everything here to succeed.

"It wasn't my call to leave. It was Souths' decision for a three-year plan and I agreed to that. It was fine with me. Jason wasn't guaranteed to be the next coach, but what he has done here has proved to them he is ready for it.

"Jason is a lot younger than me and I hope he is a 15-year coach in the NRL. That's what you hope for."

Demetriou will take over the Rabbitohs when Bennett leaves. Photo: Phil Hillyard
Demetriou will take over the Rabbitohs when Bennett leaves. Photo: Phil Hillyard

 

Broncos players were blown away by Demetriou's knowledge of the game. He arrived at Red Hill in 2017, implementing the attacking structures that propelled the Broncos into the top four that season.

"We lost Kevvie (Walters) to the Queensland Origin job and someone I trust recommended Jason to me," Bennett said.

"Tactically, he is brilliant. I have to keep getting away from him because he wants to talk football and tactics all day. I can't do that. He has lots of energy. Emotionally, he has himself under control as well.

"We've always worked well together. We can both be strong personalities but we get on well. Jason's enthusiasm always gets me, he is so passionate and whatever task you give him he throws himself into it.

"He has done his apprenticeship and is a first grade coach in all areas. The key as a coach is to get buy-in from players and Jason can do that, he has a feel for people and has a lot of initiative.

"Emotionally, he can ride the rollercoaster of the NRL without getting too frantic.

"Jason just needed that first break and now he will get it at Souths."

 

Originally published as I told you so: Bennett rips Broncos' coaching blunder