Wayne Bennett admits COVID breach, likely to be stood down

Wayne Bennett faces a fine and could potentially miss this Friday’s grudge match against the Broncos after admitting to breaking the NRL’s COVID-19 rules.

The South Sydney coach has confirmed The Daily Telegraph’s report he dined at an Italian restaurant in Leichhardt in Sydney’s inner-west on Wednesday with a woman believed to be his partner.

Bennett claimed he didn’t know he was breaching the NRL’s strict protocols, which ban players and coaches from visiting public places.

“I went for lunch yesterday at Grappa, I did. I didn’t think it was a breach … If I knew it was a breach I wouldn’t have done it. I went with my partner who I live with, had some lunch and that was it,” he told reporters after Rabbitohs training on Thursday.

“I go shopping, I go different places to get meals at times, it was just me and my partner who I live together with, she was with me and I went somewhere to get something to eat at lunchtime.”

Bennett, who also admitted there’d been “one or two other times” he’d been in public, will now be forced to take a coronavirus test and could be stood down as the NRL Integrity Unit launches an investigation.

“I go to the kebab shop to get a kebab and there’s just as many people there as there were in the restaurant,” he said. “There wasn’t many (diners) there at all, actually … I was isolated from everybody.”

Nine’s Danny Weidler said Bennett will “most likely” be forced to spend seven days in isolation even if the test is negative. The Daily Telegraph is predicting a two-week ban.

Bennett was in the middle of a training session with the Rabbitohs when the news broke after the Daily Telegraph was tipped off by a patron at the restaurant.

The mastercoach was unsure of his status for this weekend but would cop any punishment handed down.

“If that’s what happens, that’s their call. The rules have changed that many times about what we can do and can’t do,” he said.

“The protocols are changing all the time. At times I have been out when I thought it was right. I still thought it was right yesterday.”

Bennett’s Rabbitohs are scheduled to play Brisbane, the club he used to coach, on Friday night at ANZ Stadium. His assistant Jason Demetriou will take the reins if Bennett is sidelined.

The 70-year-old mentor gave his tick of approval to the league’s COVID-19 rules when asked about it last month.

“We’ve got a lot of biosecurity rules around us and I’m happy with that,” Bennett said. “If we don’t want that choice, we can just retire from football and go and do something else.”

Bennett yesterday added to the anticipation ahead of the Broncos’ clash by claiming his eventual move to the Rabbitohs wasn’t discussed until Brisbane had told him he was no longer required.

Bennett was replaced in Brisbane by Anthony Seibold, in what ended up being a straight swap.

“It’s absolute bulls*** that I was planning stuff with Souths while Seibold was there,” Bennett told the Courier Mail.

“It’s like many things in life, people only want to muddy the waters when the truth is not told. That is the case of my so-called planning with Souths when Seibold was there.”

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