KNIGHTS coach Wayne Bennett does not feel let down by former owner Nathan Tinkler.
Bennett announced last week that he would leave the Knights at the end of the season, saying he felt embarrassed and disappointed by the team’s performances on his watch and that it was time to hand the reins to someone else.
The seven-time premiership-winning coach dropped that bombshell four weeks after the NRL took control of the Knights from Tinkler’s Hunter Sports Group company.
Bennett’s four-year contract with the Knights was due to expire at the end of next season but that was nullified by Tinkler’s decision to sever ties, meaning the coach and his support staff were only contracted to the new regime until the end of October.
In an interview with former Knights five-eighth Matthew Johns on Sydney radio station Triple M yesterday, Bennett said he still kept in contact with Tinkler.
Asked if he felt the former billionaire had let him down, Bennett said: “No, I don’t feel let down. I never feel let down by people. I taught myself that a long time ago, Matty.
“It breaks your heart if you start worrying about people letting you down. I’d have been broken-hearted that many times.
“I mean, you get disappointed about things in life, but I don’t ever feel people let me down. Their choice is their decision. It’s what they do, and they let themselves down, mate, not me.”
Bennett declined to go into detail when asked if his chaotic three years at the Knights under Tinkler’s ownership had lived up to his expectations.
“I’m trying to get the season done and maybe one day I’ll write a book about it. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll never talk about it. Who knows?”
Bennett told Johns this season with the Knights had been the most difficult of his career.
“I suppose when you put everything together, I’ve had some difficult ones, but when you throw it all in together starting on January 6th when Russell Packer went to jail, I suppose it has been, yeah, on top of everything else that’s happened after that,” he said.
Bennett said he had not visited Packer in jail but had kept in touch with the former Warriors and New Zealand Test prop, whose four-year contract with the Knights was torn up before he played a game for the club.
“No, I haven’t, because he’s been a long way away,” the coach said. “He’s about a six-hour trip away to go and see him, but he keeps in constant contact with me, and I’ve been in contact with him.
“Like Alex [McKinnon], he’s accepted his situation and he’s trying to make the best of it, and he’ll be out in January next year.”
Bennett told Johns he had no regrets about his decision to leave the Knights and hoped the players continued to demonstrate the same commitment and intensity they produced in the second half of their 31-18 victory over Cronulla last Sunday.
“The decision’s made – [I’m] moving on – but I was pleased with their effort,” he said.
“I loved their effort and I really valued what they did. If we can do that for the rest of the year, then I’ll be the happiest guy in the world leaving Newcastle.
“I don’t want to leave Newcastle playing rubbish and playing stuff that embarrasses us at all, and that’s what I’ve been. I’ve been embarrassed, mate. I’ve been embarrassed up there by the way we’ve played and I’ve got to take responsibility for that. I’m the coach.”
Bennett dismissed Johns’s suggestion that he would return to the Broncos, whom he coached to six premierships from as many grand final appearances during his 21-year tenure in Brisbane.
“Go for your life. I’m not going to add to it,” Bennett said.
“You’re like everybody else.
“You’ve got an opinion on it all, so you keep all having an opinion and I’ll just sit back and make my own decision in my own time and I’ll do what I think’s right by me.”
Meanwhile, Bennett has named Adam Cuthbertson on an extended bench for the game against Gold Coast at Hunter Stadium on Sunday.
Cuthbertson’s inclusion is the only change to the team that rallied from an 18-0 deficit to beat the Sharks 31-18 at Remondis Stadium on Sunday.
The Leeds-bound utility forward returned from a knee injury in Newcastle’s 44-10 victory over his former club Manly in the NSW Cup game at Brookvale Oval on Saturday.