NRL: Broncos maestro Wayne Bennett pinpoints head-patting plague

Broncos coach Wayne Bennett after the Warriors vs Broncos NRL match. Photo/Photosport
Broncos coach Wayne Bennett after the Warriors vs Broncos NRL match. Photo/Photosport

They have scrapped the slap, now Wayne Bennett wants the NRL to punt the pat.

The Brisbane coach believed the NRL did not go far enough by banning on-field slapping this week.

He has now called for the league to outlaw the practice of head patting. The NRL competition committee this week recommended any player who slapped an opponent would be sin-binned.

However, Bennett did not believe the ruling would cut down on player niggle.

"There are a few things we have to tidy up," Bennett said. "The other thing I can't handle is [rivals] patting someone on the head when they make a mistake - that is rubbish.

"Everything we do today is about our image and that doesn't give the right image.

"It won't cut down the niggle, but at least there are guidelines there and we know the consequences."

The issue came to the fore last month, when Canterbury's David Klemmer slapped Manly halfback Daly Cherry-Evans, prompting the NRL to hand down the recommendation.

Broncos great Justin Hodges was one of the game's great nigglers, before his 2015 retirement, but Bennett insisted he would not allow any of his players to get away with a head pat these days.

"It shouldn't be allowed to happen," he said. "I think it is disrespectful - that's not what it is about to me.

"I don't want them [Broncos] doing it - I told them that."

As the Broncos prepare to face Gold Coast on Friday night, Bennett voiced his surprise the club released winger David Mead, allowing him to join Brisbane in 2017.

Four ex-Broncos will line up against their old club, setting the stage for a grudge match in their Round Seven derby at Suncorp Stadium.

However, Bennett believed Mead would be the one to came back and haunt his former club.

Mead was outstanding on Broncos debut last round, replacing injured winger Corey Oates (groin) to run 174 metres, make two line-breaks and score a try in their 32-8 win over Sydney Roosters.

His form forced Bennett to find a spot for Mead in his 17, even though Oates returned from injury this week.

"I probably was [surprised the Titans cut Mead] - he is a quality person, let alone a quality player," Bennett said. "He won players' player last week.

"He was outstanding for us. Better for him to be in the team than out of it."

Not that Bennett was exactly sure how to use Mead off the bench.

"I don't know. I was just thinking about that," he said. "But he is a pretty capable bloke - he can play fullback, centre, wing.

"[Fullback] Darius [Boyd] can play in the halves, if we have to push that button - there's plenty of options."

Mead will no doubt get plenty of attention from the Titans, but lots of eyes will also be on replacement Broncos halfback Kodi Nikorima.

The bench utility slots in for Ben Hunt, who is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a hamstring complaint suffered last round. Nikorima hopes it will be a preview of what is to come in 2018.

Hunt will leave next year to take up a lucrative deal with St George Illawarra.

Nikorima, reportedly, will be given the time Hunt is sidelined to prove his worth as the next Broncos halfback, otherwise Bennett will go to the player market.

"He has played a lot of NRL, so we think he is competent and can get the job done for us," Bennett said. "I think we know what he brings, but he is playing a different position - that is his challenge.

"He's been really good at training. That's not the same as playing, but we have confidence in him, which is the most important thing."

Brisbane is on a five-game winning streak against the Titans, but Bennett said his side was not consistent enough to be overconfident against a battling Gold Coast.

"If we were on a five, six-game winning streak [overall], that might be a problem, but it won't be tomorrow night," he said. "The Titans are playing the Broncos ... we know they will play 30 percent better tomorrow night."

Meanwhile, prop Korbin Sims (foot) has been cleared to play for Brisbane.

- news.com.au

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