Brisbane NRL coach Wayne Bennett says he feels for outgoing Manly mentor Geoff Toovey, who he believes has been unfairly axed and held up as the scapegoat for the Sea Eagles’ ills.
Bennett might be busy plotting Manly’s demise when the Broncos head to Brookvale on Saturday, but he has sided with outraged Sea Eagles fans following the ruthless sacking of club great Toovey, who will be succeeded next year by Trent Barrett.
Bennett said it was wrong to pin all of Manly’s troubles on the one man.
“It’s just been a horrific year for that club. It’s pretty unfair just to label it on the coach,” Bennett said.
“I’m disappointed for him what’s happened, I think he’s a really good bloke and no one would understand except for him how difficult that job he had there this year.”
Toovey will go down as one of the best NRL coaches to get the sack, boasting a winning rate of 58 per cent and a strong recent record that includes one grand final appearance and two other top-eight finishes since taking the job in 2012.
Bennett said the strain of the Daly Cherry-Evans and Kieran Foran contract sagas would have put any coach under pressure – yet despite those two huge distractions, Toovey was still able to steer the Sea Eagles back into genuine finals contention before his shock dismissal.
“It just stifles everything you do and prevents you from being the club you want to be and the coach you know you have to be,” he said.
“That’s what happens to you – you stop coaching, and try and handle all the other issues around the club.
“It’s over for him now and part of him is probably relieved.”
The Broncos are favourites to continue their remarkable season with a win at Brookvale, although the Sea Eagles threaten to do as all post-crisis teams tend to do – bounce back with a victory.
Not that Bennett is concerning himself too much with the opposition.
“To be honest with you, Manly I don’t know what’s going on down there, I’ve got no idea. So I’m not going to worry about it too much,” he said.
“We’ve just got to go down, be the Broncos and play well.”