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NRL 2023: Wayne Bennett responds to Gorden Tallis criticism of Dolphins coaching absence, reignites long running feud

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The long-running feud between Gorden Tallis and supercoach Wayne Bennett has reignited again, with Tallis questioning why Bennett wasn’t in attendance for the Dolphins pre-season opener against the Cowboys over the weekend in Cairns.

Tallis, covering other pre-season matches ahead of Round 1 of the NRL kicking off on March 2, said the Dolphins making their pre-season debut, a 22-22 draw, without Bennett was the “biggest talk on the sidelines.”

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“It’s strange…why isn’t the coach in the first year going?” Tallis said on the Footy Talk League podcast.

“He (has) a really young squad, all the young kids.

“I don’t care who you are.

“Let’s break it down to school when your teacher is not there and you get a relief teacher, do you work as hard?

“Maybe there’s a bit of a ploy and when his real team runs out, or when the top boys run out (that’s when he will be there).”

Tallis played all of his 160 games for the Broncos under Bennett, winning the Clive Churchill Medal in 1998 and winning three premierships together, before a long-running feud erupted over Bennett benching Tallis in a 2004 semi-final against the Cowboys, his only game of that season off the bench, as the Broncos’ skipper.

The Dolphins responded to Tallis in a statement, with club CEO Terry Reader saying it was all part of a wider plan.

“There is nothing new about Wayne not being in the coaches’ boxes for the early trials, he has always made it part of the development path for assistant coaches that they take control of the team during the first two trial matches,” Reader said.

“Wayne has been doing this for decades but I also think some people might have forgotten that 12 of our senior players that did not play last (Sunday) night were on the field with Wayne for training at 7am this (Monday) morning back at Redcliffe.

“People might not know that Wayne went to Gladstone last week with the team and attended multiple community and corporate activities with and for the Dolphins and CQ Capras given our commitment to the partnership and region.

“Wayne also went to the stadium early to watch Dolphins under 16, under 18s, and under 19s women’s teams play before the Dolphins NRL game which he watched from the grandstand.”

Reader also was quoted as saying Bennett will be in attendance for the Broncos’ next pre-season game against the Titans on Sunday.

Bennett himself also hit back at his former protege, insisting his “priority is to the Dolphins.”

“We had some issues with flights (getting home early from Cairns) and I wanted to make sure I was here at Redcliffe to be coaching the rest of the NRL players who didn’t play against the Cowboys,” Bennett said.

“There’s no issue at my end.”

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