RICHO DENIES BENNY RIFT
SHANE Richardson has lifted the lid on his relationship with Wayne Bennett, adamant there is no rift and they never had a fallout over Cody Walker.
In a wide-ranging interview ahead of Saturday’s preliminary final against Penrith, the former South Sydney football boss declared: “There wasn’t any blue about Cody.”
But Richardson also made no apologies for playing hardball with Walker’s management so other players didn’t have to leave Souths.
Richardson delivered a fascinating insight into the wheeling and dealing that went into building this rags to riches roster that has overachieved in 2020.
Made up mostly of homegrown juniors and rival club rejects, there is no better example of an NRL bargain buy than Walker, who Richardson initially signed on a minimum $60,000 deal to be Luke Keary’s back-up.
Richardson says Walker now reminds him of a modern day Cliffy Lyons who could “play until he is 40”.
Richardson was responsible for bringing Walker to Souths where he finally made his NRL debut at the age of 26, after previously failing to make it at Gold Coast and Melbourne.
But that didn’t stop Richardson and Walker’s management clashing last summer. Walker’s management was reportedly hunting $900,000-a-season while Richardson was offering significantly less.
It got to the point where they reached a stalemate that was threatening to push Walker out of the club before Bennett stepped in as peacemaker.
It was only months later Richardson resigned from his position.
But Richardson maintained: “Honestly, Wayne and I have never had a clash. It wasn’t as if I was against signing Cody.
“But there was a value to Cody at 29 years of age. And you have your values and you work through them.
“But we couldn’t afford to do that in our cap because we would have lost (Tevita) Tatola. We would have lost Liam Knight because we just couldn’t fit them in.
“But by signing Cody at the price we did, we were able to fit in everybody around it.”
The end result is now there for all to see. Even without a stack of injured stars including Latrell Mitchell, James Roberts, Braidon Burns, Ethan Lowe and now Campbell Graham, the Rabbitohs are now just one game away from a grand final.
And this comes a season after losing Sam Burgess, Greg Inglis and John Sutton.
“You lose some from time to time but you can’t hold everybody,” Richardson said. “Sometimes you lose a Chris Sandow but you’ve got an Adam Reynolds.
“And sometimes you lose a Keary but you’ve got Cody Walker … the world doesn’t collapse.
“I think the big thing is we don’t whinge and whine about salary cap problems. We have never done that. The whole club just got on with the job and Wayne Bennett and Jason Demetriou have been a revelation.
“And it gets back to my point with Wayne. People say why is Wayne good, is it because he gets to know the players?
“He gets to know the players because he f…ing puts strength in them. One of the things he said to me when he arrived at the club is that, ‘I don’t understand why you pick 17 players … you only play 15.
“But Wayne’s attitude is that if you pick 17 players they all participate. So he has made (Bailey) Sironen a better player by doing that. He has made (Mark) Nicholls a much better player by doing that. He has made Liam Knight a better player … (Keaon) Koloamatangi.
“And it is all because they are not just picked in the 17 and sit on the sideline getting a cold. They know they are going to play a crucial role.
“And that is why when we bring off Tatola and Tom Burgess, and we bring on Nicholls and Koloamatangi, they don’t go on thinking they are just filling in.
“They go on to do a job and they are doing a great job.”