‘Absolute bull****’: Bennett goes nuclear on Seibold
Wayne Bennett has taken aim at Anthony Seibold, denying suggestions he backstabbed his coaching rival and claiming he was a victim of lies in an explosive prelude to Friday night's Broncos-Souths grudge match.
Bennett's stance comes as former Souths boss Shane Richardson revealed he was left with "egg on my face" after being "blindsided" by Seibold's decision to quit the Rabbitohs and ink a five-year deal with the Broncos.
The Broncos and Souths have forged the most bitter rivalry in the code and it stems from several areas, chiefly Seibold's belief Bennett knifed him by meddling in the Rabbitohs' affairs while the super coach was still employed at Brisbane in 2018.
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Bennett was sensationally accused of attempting to change a Souths training camp organised by Seibold and ringing Rabbitohs hooker Damien Cook to urge him to stay loyal ahead of his planned arrival at Redfern in 2020.
In the end, the warring coaches traded places 12 months earlier after Bennett was sacked by Brisbane bosses, clearing the path for Seibold to take charge of the Broncos for the 2019 campaign.
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Bennett can officially end the embattled Broncos' finals hopes on Friday night and he took offence at allegations he tried to make changes at the Rabbitohs while Seibold was still in charge there.
"It is absolute bull**** that I was planning stuff with Souths while Seibold was there," Bennett fired.
"It's like many things in life, people only want to muddy the waters when the truth is not told.
"That is the case of my so-called planning with Souths when Seibold was there.
"I didn't agree to go to South Sydney until the Broncos sacked me. I never once agitated to get out.
"I wanted to fulfil my contract with the Broncos.
"I was approached by the Wests Tigers, but I couldn't take the job. I gave my word to the Broncos staff and players I would not abandon them for 2019.
"In all conversations I had with the Broncos, their CEO (Paul White) and chairman (Karl Morris) kept assuring me I had a job at the club in 2019.
"Shane Richardson only got in touch with me (in October 2018) because Anthony Seibold hadn't committed to a contract with Souths and they had to cover their bases.
"When Shane eventually signed me, we always and only ever discussed seasons 2020-21."
Asked about claims he tried to alter Seibold's pre-season Souths camp, Bennett said: "Not true.
"I said to 'Richo' in our conversation do you guys do training camps? He said yes we are going to the AIS (under Seibold) and I said well when I get to Souths in 2020, we will be doing an army camp instead.
"I never changed a single thing with Souths for 2019 because I wasn't going there.
"I was happy to stay at the Broncos until they sacked me."
Richardson is the figure with the most intimate knowledge of the Bennett-Seibold saga. He was the Souths powerbroker who tabled a three-year, $2.5 million extension to Seibold. He was the same person forced to act quickly and target Bennett when Seibold dithered on the Rabbitohs' offer for three months.
When Richardson slapped a deadline on Seibold, he never received a formal answer from the Souths coach. Instead, Seibold's manager, Isaac Moses, notified Souths his client would not be taking up the extension.
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Richardson claims he had no inkling Seibold was in talks with the Broncos.
"I thought Anthony Seibold would stay and I was left with egg on my face," he says.
"I don't hold grudges towards him now. Anthony is a good bloke and a good person, but it could have been handled better.
"The truth is we went to Anthony with an upgraded offer halfway through the year and he didn't want to sign it.
"He just said he wanted to wait because the finals were coming up and he didn't want to disturb the finals, blah blah blah.
"Because of it dragging on, we lost David Furner to England. He did an outstanding job as Seibold's assistant, but he left because he even believed 'Seibs' was going to stay.
"We had no idea Brisbane were in the picture.
"I never saw it (Seibold's defection) coming.
"I thought Anthony was really happy at Souths and we were really happy with him. I assumed he was going to stay on.
"I don't want to go into a bag-athon on Seibs, he is under enough pressure at the moment without me putting the boot into him. I'm not dirty on him today. At the time, it pissed me off a bit, but the decisions were made and I always felt Wayne could be a good fit and he has been.
"The timing (of Seibold leaving) blindsided us, but as it turned out, it has turned out well for us. Wayne is doing well at Souths."
Richardson scoffs at the widely-held belief Bennett poked his nose into Seibold's business at Redfern.
"It's absolute garbage that Wayne knifed Anthony Seibold," he said.
"When Wayne was appointed by us to start in 2020, players like Damien Cook were coming off-contract and he was able to talk to rival clubs from November 1 the previous year.
"Damien Cook had to know where he stood with Wayne because Anthony Seibold wasn't going to be there.
"Wayne spoke to Damien Cook because I asked him to. It had nothing to do with the 2019 season.
"Our first preference was always to retain Anthony and reward him for the great job he did in his first year with us.
"The fact is Anthony always had our offer on the table. It was his decision to leave Souths. Wayne can't be blamed for any of that."
Originally published as 'Absolute bull****': Bennett goes nuclear on Seibold