Wayne Bennett “is not what he used to be” according to Brisbane great Wendell Sailor, following the Dolphins’ failed pursuit of a marquee player for their inaugural year.
The Queensland-based team will compete in the 2023 NRL season having signed the likes of Felise Kaufusi, Anthony Milford, Hamiso Tabuai-Fidow and Bromwich brothers, Jesse and Kenny.
But Cameron Munster’s signature was the one they coveted most.
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The Queensland Origin and Australian Kangaroos star was set to become the game’s highest-paid player if he accepted the Dolphins’ lucrative offer to head north. But he chose to stay at the Storm.
Apart from their pursuit of Munster, the Dolphins tried to lure Kalyn Ponga, Harry Grant, Jahrome Hughes and Stephen Crichton, all to no avail.
Those negotiations failed after the new franchise was given less than 18 months to sign a competitive squad following the licence granted to them by the NRL in October 2021.
Sailor acknowledged the Dolphins and legendary coach Bennett were dealt a difficult hand with the lack of time afforded, yet the dual international said he was “surprised” his former mentor could not land a big name.
“The magic of Wayne Bennett is that he’s able to sign a marquee player,” Sailor said on Triple M.
“But obviously, Ponga, Munster, I know for a fact he thought he had Munster… but this is the magic of Wayne Bennett usually, being able to get marquee players and high profile players.
“I personally think the Dolphins needed a two-year lead in, not one year and it is proving hard now.
“I think Wayne, along with some of his recruitment people, they probably would have had the confidence to execute a few deal.
“But unfortunately, I am not saying he hasn’t got the Midas touch, but he is not what he used to be, Bennett.”
Why Munster re-signed with Melbourne
Following Munster’s decision to stay put in Melbourne, Bennett expressed his displeasure over the star’s decision to not call him personally to tell him he would not be joining the NRL’s newest team.
“It’s a phone call none of us want to make, but you want to be a man, you have to behave like one,” Bennett said at the time.
Munster said he felt “animosity” towards Bennett after being made aware of the Dolphins’ coach’s comments.
He said his manager advised him not to make the call to Bennett before his decision to stay with the Storm was leaked.
“They threw my name in the media and I was pretty disrespected, saying I wasn’t man enough to ring him. I had every intention to, but after those comments, we felt like it was in the best interests just to leave it alone,” he said.
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