NRL Grand Final 2021: Lote Tuqiri reveals Wayne Bennett beer skolling story, Panthers vs Rabbitohs
Wayne Bennett comes across as a hard taskmaster but an NRL great has lifted the lid on a funny moment that paints the coach in a different light.
There’s just 80 minutes between Wayne Bennett and his eighth grand final victory, as he prepares to lead South Sydney into battle against a steely Panthers outfit on Sunday night.
Bennett is often a man of few words and cuts a serious figure on the outside but according to NRL great Lote Tuqiri, there’s a lighter side to the legendary coach the public rarely sees.
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Tuqiri was a member of the Brisbane Broncos team that beat the Roosters to win the 2000 NRL premiership and the man he describes as a “stern, Clint Eastwood type” figure certainly enjoyed the celebrations.
“I do remember Wayne skolling a shandy,” Tuqiri told news.com.au. “That was pretty cool”.
It’s also unusual, because Bennett doesn’t touch alcohol.
“We got around a fire pit back at the leagues club where the training ground is and told some stories about the year and our experiences,” Tuqiri said.
“I think one of the senior players got him up and everyone got behind Gordie (Tallis) or Kevvie (Walters), and Wayne did skol a shandy for the boys.
“Everyone went up!
“I think the boys run off that, and they sort of respect that.”
It remains to be seen whether Bennett would engage in similar antics should the Rabbitohs emerge victorious at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Sunday, but given it’s his last game in charge of the Bunnies, he may let down what little hair he has left.
Both Souths and Penrith will go down in history for playing the first ever NRL grand final in Brisbane — assuming it goes ahead as the state battles a Covid outbreak.
Tuqiri — who played for Wests Tigers and Souths after returning from a stint in rugby union — is loving the vibe around the city, as the Queensland capital embraces the opportunity to host such a big occasion.
“There’s a big buzz around town,” Tuqiri said. “You walk around, there’s footy jerseys everywhere.
“There’s sort of a carnival and festival atmosphere happening.
“It’s just great to see right down the street, people have got their flags out and their jerseys on.
“People are from out of town and come here.
Whether Brisbane plays host to another grand final down the track remains to be seen, but regardless, the city is putting on a show.
“They’ve done really well, it sold out very quickly,” Tuqiri said. “We call it the home of rugby league up here, but a New South Welshman won’t say that.
“I’m just happy that we got the chance to get to the game, and they sold that out very quickly.”
Unfortunately, Covid restrictions mean the crowd has been capped at 75 per cent.
The grand final will be Bennett’s last outing for South Sydney and it could also be the final time we see Benji Marshall in the NRL.
Bennett believes Marshall will hang up the boots at the end of the season, but the veteran Kiwi kept his cards close to his chest earlier in the week, and even hinted his playing days might not be over just yet.
If it was to be Marshall’s last game and South Sydney emerge with the Provan-Summons trophy, Tuqiri believes there’s no better way to go out for one of the game’s greats.
“From an attacking point of view, Benji Marshall would be one of the top three players I’ve played with,” Tuqiri said.
“He’d do things on the field you’d dream of doing in the backyard. He was a hero.
“There’s a generation of kids out there, that are probably playing now, that wanted to be Benji Marshall.
“They’re the sort of players that really dominate a sport, and he did that for a long time.
“If Souths win on Sunday, and I’m Benji Marshall, I’m retiring. This is a great way for him to bow out.”