NRL grants South Sydney coach Wayne Bennett permission to say goodbye to a lifelong mate
Wayne Bennett left the ‘bubble’ again on the eve of Souths clash against Melbourne — but this time it was with NRL approval.
Paul Crawley , The Daily Telegraph
September 3, 2020 8:02pm
Wayne Bennett busted the ‘bubble’ again on the eve of Friday’s blockbuster clash between South Sydney and Melbourne. But this time it was with the NRL’s approval — and for a very good reason.
Bennett made the five-hour round drive from Sydney to Newcastle on Thursday after training so he could pay his last respects to his great friend David Owen.
They first played rugby league together at Toowoomba back in 1970 and remained close mates for the 50 years that followed.
“I was a policeman and he’d spent three-and-a-half years in jail, and we became best of mates,” Bennett said. “It says it all about rugby league.”
Wayne Bennett was given approval by the NRL to attend the funeral of a close friend in Newcastle. Picture: Getty Images
Bennett recalled Owen had an incredibly tough life as a child but lived with tremendous spirit, as “one of life’s rogues”.
“He did everything in life that you possibly can,” Bennett said.
“Create mayhem and havoc, that was one of his specialties.
“His mother was 13 when he was born and he went to an orphanage when he was four months old.
“It is a long story and it is a sad story in many ways. But he was a great mate and he was fun. When I was at Newcastle I spent a lot of time with him.
“And he was a classic, one of the funniest men.
“When I was coaching the Broncos, Alf and Kevvie, Lazzo and Kerrod Walters, they were all at the height of their fame.
“And I’d bring him around to breakfast to meet the boys and he would have them in the hallway doing scrum practise. Hooking for the ball with a loose arm. He was a hooker when hookers were hookers.
“And he had this big bush hat and it was the ball and Alf would be winding him up and he would be just loving it.”
Part of the NRL’s approval meant Bennett had to wear a mask and be the last in and first to leave the funeral, and he couldn’t attend the wake.
But Bennett was just happy that the NRL allowed him the chance to see off a mate.