GARRY SCHOFIELD reacts to Great Britain’s latest defeat, this time against Papua New Guinea last Saturday.
THE sack, the sack, the sack!
I can’t put it any more simply than those six words, and if Wayne Bennett remains in his post, he really will be the Harry Houdini of Rugby League.
Since Saturday’s Great Britain debacle, I’ve spoken to a lot of people who care about the sport, and almost all have been of the same opinion.
So I’d like to speak up on behalf of supporters of the game in this country and send a message to Ralph Rimmer, the Rugby Football League’s chief executive, Kevin Sinfield, its rugby director, and Jamie Peacock, the team manager.
Let’s not have any lame excuses about players being absent, getting to the World Cup Final in 2017 and beating New Zealand in last year’s series.
We have plenty of quality players; we were poor against the Aussies two years ago and the Kiwis didn’t travel too well in 2018.
Wayne Bennett as head coach of Great Britain and England (they’re now so bound together, they can’t be separated) isn’t working. So get rid, that is if the powers that be have the crystals to do what we all know is the right thing.
I’d say taxi for Wayne, but he spends so little time over here that it would be pointless to call one.
Just when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, after defeats to Tonga and New Zealand (twice), they did.
It started off with Ash Handley being called up.
Great news, initially at least, for the player, who by all accounts, pulled the plug on his holiday to fly half way around the world to link up with the squad.
But then when he got there, he was told he wasn’t needed and that Wayne was sticking with Blake Austin, who, while he is a great halfback, isn’t a winger and didn’t particularly pull up any trees when playing in that position the previous week.
It’s a scandalous way to treat someone and it sums up the muddled thinking that has surrounded this entire trip.
Take nothing away from Papua New Guinea, who were very good on Saturday and produced a performance brimming with endeavour, energy and commitment.
Their 28-10 win in Port Moresby will overtake their 20-18 win over the Lions in Goroka back in 1990, when I had such a poor game at stand-off.
But I’m being honest when I say I would still rather be the player everyone thinks of when it comes to poor results against the Kumuls.
Great Britain started off okay, and we actually managed to score two tries in the one game, which was a first for this dismal tour.
But as soon as Edwin Ipape got one back just before half-time, the complexion of the game changed.
While the Kumuls claimed four further tries in the second half, we failed to register a point, emphasising how blunt our attack has been.
As I’ve said, congratulations to Papua New Guinea, and it’s good to see both the Kumuls and Tonga adding some colour and competitiveness to the international scene. But let’s be honest, on paper, how many of their players would get in the Great Britain side?
Our squad had six halfbacks, yet we were undone by their scrum-half Watson Boas, who isn’t even a first-choice halfback at Doncaster.
I’m not having a pop at Watson Boas or Doncaster by saying that, but I am very much having a pop at Wayne Bennett and the Great Britain officials.
What a wasted opportunity this trip has been.
In terms of Wayne Bennett’s part in proceedings, there are three major areas which need to be addressed: Squad selection, players being played out of position and tactics, which are all pretty key areas.
As has been said over and over, the squad was very unbalanced, overloaded in the halfbacks, but obviously short of specialist wingers and centres, and that came back to haunt us.
Yes, certain players were missing, injured either before the tour or during it. But injuries happen, and a big part of a coach’s job is to address and anticipate various situations, and select a squad to provide proper cover.
He should also pick players on their club form, yet Daryl Clark, excellent for Warrington and one of the few Great Britain players to catch the eye on tour, was given only limited opportunities.
Then there were the constant issues of players being played out of position, not just Austin, who had never played on wing before, but was retained when Handley was available, but James Graham, Jonny Lomax and Zak Hardaker.
And the scorelines in the four matches show how unsuccessful and unadventurous the tactics were, in addition to being dull (we are in the entertainment business, after all).
Despite what the players say (and realistically, which player is going to speak out against his coach?), Wayne seems to have sucked all the spirit out of them, and made them scared or unwilling to express themselves. Just look at Jackson Hastings.
When Josh Hodgson, who is second only to Cameron Smith in terms of NRL hookers, looks so uncomfortable and lacklustre in his role, you know something isn’t right in the camp.
I’ve already said I’d like Daryl Powell to get the England job, but I’d also accept Shaun Wane, because he also knows our game inside out, and has shown he can pick the right team and motivate his players.
Some people say that with only two years to go until the World Cup, it’s the wrong time to change coach. But either of those two have the knowledge and experience to hit the ground running
And whoever takes over should keep the services of Ian Watson and Danny Ward, who seem to have been pretty much ignored by Wayne Bennett, whose time is very much up.
This article was part of Garry Schofield’s ‘Pulling no Punches’ column in this week’s edition of League Express