Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett was 24 hours away from securing the game's hottest property - Melbourne star Cameron Munster - before a single phone call changed the destiny of two clubs. A new book on Bennett - 'The Wolf You Feed', written by sports journalist Andrew Webster - details just how close Munster came to becoming the Dolphins' first marquee signing.
Munster and his manager Braith Anasta met at a restaurant in Coogee late in 2022 to finalise a deal after months of agonising over whether to leave the Storm for the NRL new boys. "By the end of lunch, tell me what you're doing," Anasta said. "I'm going to the Dolphins," Munster replied. "I'll ring Wayne tomorrow." Anasta demanded: "Ring Wayne tomorrow."
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The next day Munster was back in Melbourne but rang Anasta, not Bennett. "I want to stay in Melbourne now," the superstar playmaker told Anasta.
Several weeks passed during which time the Storm bumped up their offer – from $750,000 to $1.1m a season - to meet Munster's demands and a deal was done. A day after Penrith beat Parramatta in the 2022 grand final, Munster was back on the phone to Anasta. "That's what drives me," he told his manager. "I want to win another competition with Melbourne."
Bennett went nuclear when Munster took off to the UK with the Kangaroos without informing him of his decision, ringing Brisbane's Triple M to unload on the star play-maker. "It’s pretty ordinary stuff. I understand there are managers these days and there is a need for them, but what I struggle with, is all the tough conversations are missing," Bennett said.
"They (NRL players) don’t ring you up and say they aren’t coming. If you want to be a man, you have to behave like one and tell someone you aren’t coming."
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A year on from the drama, Bennett tells Webster: "There's always another footballer out there. Am I disappointed I missed out on (Brandon) Smith and Munster? Of course I am. But you have to bide your time."
In the opening chapter of 'The Wolf You Feed', Webster writes: "The purpose of this book is to cut through the misconceptions and mistruths about a giant of Australian sport; to separate the myth from the magic." And, despite Bennett being as spikey an echidna as an interview subject, Webster does a good job of stripping back the layers and giving an intriguing insight into the Bennett psyche while also delving into deeply personal matters.
There's Bennett's almost non-existent relationship with his alcoholic father, the split from wife of 42 years, Trish, to pursue a relationship with a younger woman and the ructions it caused in the family, the acrimonious exits from Brisbane and Newcastle and allegations he received under-the-table payments.
"I've got nothing to hide. If it means people know me more, or like me less, I don’t give a shit," Bennett tells the author at the start of the book. "It’s not going to change my life one bit."
'The Wolf You Feed: Wayne Bennett – The Man, The Myth, The Mayhem' by Andrew Webster. Macmillan Australia. RRP $36.99.
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