Gorden Tallis calls out Wayne Bennett act amid 'disrespectful' claims about South Sydney

Bennett's Dolphins have been on the slide since he agreed to join Souths next season.

Gorden Tallis says he doesn't like the idea of Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett speaking with Rabbitohs coaches and players while he's still in charge of the Redcliffe club. Bennett signed a three-year deal back in May to return as head coach of the Rabbitohs from the 2025 season, and his own team's form has taken a nosedive ever since.

The Dolphins have lost four of their last five games, while Souths are on a five-game winning streak since Bennett agreed to rejoin the club he took to the 2021 NRL grand final. It's emerged that Bennett has been in contact with interim Souths coach Ben Hornby and several of the club's players over the last month, with the master coach credited with helping turn the Bunnies' form around after a dreadful start to the season.

Gorden Tallis has questioned whether Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett should be speaking to Souths players before his move there next season. Pic: Getty
Gorden Tallis has questioned whether Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett should be speaking to Souths players before his move there next season. Pic: Getty

South Sydney also agreed to release former representative hooker Damien Cook from the last year of his contract and allow him to join the Dragons from 2025. Bennett maintains he had nothing to do with the Cook decision which comes as a massive surprise considering signing players and planning for the season ahead forms a crucial part of a head coach's role.

The Rabbitohs also look set to sign Euan Aitken for next year in a move that would see the versatile Dolphins forward follow his coach to Redfern in 2025. Bennett has an existing relationship with several Souths stars that he used to coach such as Cody Walker and Latrell Mitchell. And he speaks regularly with Hornby, with the pair winning a premiership together as coach and player at the Dragons.

Fox League’s James Hooper says it's obvious Bennett's fingerprints are all over the Rabbitohs' stunning return to form. “There’s no doubt whatsoever, I know for a fact because I’ve spoken with players about it, Wayne has been speaking to the players regularly and he has given Ben advice about certain tactical things that he could do with the team. Ben has taken that advice on board.

“You have to give Ben Hornby and (Souths assistant) Dave Furner enormous credit for what they’ve been able to do for this Souths team and the way they’ve been able to galvanise them but there’s no question Wayne is still heavily involved.” But Tallis - who played under Bennett at the Broncos for the majority of his career - says it's a strange situation that the veteran mentor is balancing two coaching roles at once this season.

Tallis says he'd understand if Dolphins players were becoming frustrated that their coach wasn't giving the team his complete focus this season. “An old wise man once told me you can’t do two things at 100%,” Tallis said on NRL 360. “The Dolphins have lost (four from their last five) don’t you think he should be focused on the Dolphins? That is the only question. Putting my player’s hat on, if I’m sitting in that dressing room and I know my coach is ringing another side, I wouldn’t like it. It’s as simple as that.”

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Hornby refused to go into detail about how much he speaks with Bennett but says it's "disrespectful" to suggest that the veteran mentor is already running things at the Bunnies. "I find it a little bit disrespectful," Hornby said. "Not just to me, but everyone here that is doing a great job, the players included. We talked regularly before I took over, we've been talking regularly for more than 10 years. So nothing has really changed there. He's concentrating on his team, I am concentrating on mine."

Souths interim coach Ben Hornby says it's disrespectful to suggest that Wayne Bennett is running things at the club before his move in 2025. Pic: Getty
Souths interim coach Ben Hornby says it's disrespectful to suggest that Wayne Bennett is running things at the club before his move in 2025. Pic: Getty

Bennett maintains he's had very little to do with the Rabbitohs' form reversal over the last month and refuted the idea that he's balancing two coaching roles at once. "I am not doing very much at Souths at all. I haven't been near the club. I haven't been near anybody," Bennett said ahead of his side's clash against the Bunnies on Thursday night.

"I have got a deal done. We did the deal and I am coaching the Dolphins. That is my priority and they have got a club to run this year," he said. "They have got good people in there and they have turned their season around. That is how it works. It can't work any other way. I can't be trying to run two clubs. That doesn't work. I have been very committed to here. I have done this six or seven times in my career so it is not a challenge. It is easy to do."

with AAP