Wayne Bennett could face a stint in quarantine after admitting he ate out at a Sydney restaurant on Wednesday, in a breach of the NRL’s biosecurity guidelines. The league will investigate the South Sydney coach’s visit, with details emerging on the eve of Friday’s grudge match against Brisbane.
Bennett on Thursday claimed he did not believe he was breaking the game’s rules and admitted he was confused over what he could and could not do. However, under the NRL’s biosecurity rules, players and selected club officials cannot have visitors or go to pubs, cafes or restaurants.
Bennett said on Thursday morning he had not yet heard from the NRL, but that will likely change.
“I went for lunch at Grappa yesterday,” Bennett said. “I wouldn’t have done it if I thought I did something wrong. If [isolation] is what’s got to happen, that’s their call. The rules have changed that many times about what we can do and can’t do.
“I didn’t think I was breaking rules yesterday because I wasn’t with a group, it was just me and my partner. I isolated, we didn’t sit near anywhere.”
The veteran coach claimed the confusion arose after he was able to shop at centres where there were numerous other people. He also admitted he had been out to lunch on previous occasions, but said the restaurant was not busy.
“At times I have been out, I thought it was alright,” Bennett said. “I thought it was alright yesterday. I’m sure we’ve had moments, all of us. But I’m sure we all comply across the board.”
Bennett spent Thursday morning running South Sydney’s final training run for the clash with Brisbane, before being informed of the news.
If he is quarantined, he would be unable to coach in Friday night’s clash and likely be away from Rabbitohs training for at least a week.
Assistant Jason Demetriou would likely step up in his place, just two years after Brisbane knocked Bennett’s succession plan that would have seen Demetriou eventually replace him in Brisbane.
Bennett was a key member of the Project Apollo committee that spearheaded the game’s return in May. He also told players last month if they did not want to adapt to the sport’s new biosecurity rules they should “just retire” and “go do something else”.
Penrith rookie Charlie Staines was asked to quarantine for a fortnight just last month after visiting Nepean Hospital with lockjaw. While the hospital was considered a potential danger zone, part of the issue was that not all people the winger came into contact with could be tested.
Likewise, Newcastle youngster Bradman Best also missed a game earlier this season after being forced into a week’s quarantine after visiting family.
The Queensland government has only agreed to have teams travel into and out of the state from NSW based on the NRL’s strict biosecurity guidelines.