Broncos CEO opens up on Bennett’s future, Lodge and expansion

Broncos CEO Paul White insists Wayne Bennett will know when to call time on his illustrious coaching career and says he has not had any discussions with the club’s coach about his plans beyond 2019.

White, speaking to media at the opening of the $27.2 million Clive Berghofer Centre, was asked by NRL.com whether he’d had negotiations with Bennett about extending his contract.

“He’s got two more years to run,” White replied.

“I think it is a bit premature. I speak to Wayne every day, and you’ve got to understand that I have known Wayne since I was 18 years old.

“He will know when the time is right [to retire]. The time is not right yet and the time is not right to have that discussion.

“This is a new season. He’s full of energy. He’s ready to go and I’m one hundred behind him.”

There has been a lot of talk in league circles about the Broncos’ succession plans post-Bennett and White also addressed whether he’d had any discussions with Bennett about it.

“Not by me. There is no talk from me. I work at the club side-by-side with him,” he said.

White, when quizzed about the club’s reported sounding out of Paul Green as a successor to Bennett, said he had not been quoted on the matter.

“Wayne Bennett is our coach, full stop. And if you want an exclamation mark to that sentence there are six premiership trophies at the front of the building here and he has delivered all of them,” White said.

“So I would say that is a fair CV.”

The Broncos’ signing of Matt Lodge has polarised fans with some not prepared to forgive his alcohol-fuelled rampage in New York in 2015.

White said Lodge had “paid an enormous price and realised he made a terrible mistake” and that he continued to work in the community and with the club’s younger players.

He acknowledged the Lodge issue would continue to generate debate but said he was comfortable that Lodge was at the club and “comfortable with the processes that we went through with the NRL to get him here”.

“He has done his time,” White said.

“He has been out of the game for almost three years and it was two years before the NRL would register his contract as a fit and proper person.

“It wasn’t until that stage that Matt and his manager approached us. He has come to the club for the right reasons and he’s done an enormous amount of work off the field.

“People don’t know Matt Lodge like we know Matt Lodge and like I know Matt Lodge.”

White was asked whether the club had discussed the $1.6 million the victims of his actions were still seeking.

“The civil matter is between Matt and… the claimants. There has been commentary around settlements being offered,” he said.

“It is a large sum of money. Matt is not on a large contract with our club and hopefully at some stage in the future he will be, if he is successful, but there is a long way to go between here and there.”

New ARLC chairman Peter Beattie is set to champion expansion of the game and White said he had questioned the Commission on its expansion strategy.

He said it was vital that if there was to be an expansion strategy the game needed to “back it up with some firm numbers around how we are going to get there”.

“I don’t want to see good rugby league people spending money on bids that aren’t going to see that light of day,” he said.

“That has happened in the past and I don’t want to see it happen in the future.

“What I would like to see from the Commission or the NRL is whether it is geographical expansion or numerical expansion.

“I think everyone knows that 16 clubs is the most teams we can sustain in the competition. If it is about relocation, that is not a matter for me. It is a matter for the Commission.

“I’m here at the Broncos working hard and if another team comes to Brisbane one day then we’ll get a local derby.”

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