By the time readers got to my piece yesterday on the possible reason
behind Wayne Bennett’s departure as the Kangaroos Coach (the boozy
culture within league), that reason had become reality, forcing the
Australian Rugby League into a textbook “crisis management” strategy.

On Sunday the ARL’s “motor mouth” CEO, Geoff Carr, was ruling out an early replacement for Bennett.

But yesterday’s meeting apparently received a damning report from the
Kangaroos’ tour manager, John “Chow” Hayes, a former top player and NSW
Policeman. The report confirmed what Bennett had alluded to when he
resigned – that the drinking culture in the Kangaroos is alive and well.

Hayes was brought into the representative team management scene following booze-driven incidents a couple of seasons ago.

With the realisation that the damning Hayes report would hit the media,
the ARL needed to act quickly to defuse the story. And how better to do
so than quickly choose a new coach who has a reputation for a hard line
approach to boozing players? (But it’s a reputation that doesn’t quite
stack up when the record of Roosters players misbehaving is examined).

The Roosters and NSW Blues coach, Ricky Stuart, is the right man for
the job. He has an outstanding record in a short coaching career – a
grand final win and a state of origin win.

But one has to be suspicious that the issue Bennett alluded to in a
couple of post-resignation interviews will again be swept under the
ARL’s very large, and well-worn, carpet. It is now up to Bennett to
elaborate, given that excessive drinking by players on the recent
Kangaroos tour has been confirmed by no less a source than the team

The second appointment rushed through yesterday – that of Cowboys
coach, Graham Murray, as NSW Blues coach – will make for an interesting
origin series. And it’s a very smart choice.

Not only are about half his Cowboys team in line for the Queensland
Maroons team, two of his club coaching staff have been appointed to Mal
Meninga’s Maroons coaching squad.

If knowledge of your opponents is as valuable as the experts claim it
is, readers who are willing to have a punt should get on to Centrebet,
Betfair and anyone else who’ll take your money – and back the Blues to
win the 2006 series now.