NRL legend Wayne Bennett has denied any knowledge of the bombshell claims that have been levelled at Sam Burgess.
The former captain of the South Sydney Rabbitohs has been rocked by damning allegations, reported by The Australian, that have seen him stand down from his coaching role at the club along with his Fox Sports duties.
Burgess has strongly denied the allegations.
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Ahead of the Rabbitohs’ elimination final against the Newcastle Knights, Bennett fronted the media and said he was personally unaware of the allegations and denied suggestions people at the club knew of Burgess’ alleged behaviour.
The Burgess allegations have taken the shine away from the contest with Bennett growing frustrated by the constant questioning of the former star.
“My major consideration is (the) game, but nobody wants to talk about that, so we might wind this conversation up,’’ he said.
When he was asked about alleged substance abuse, Bennett said it was the first he’d heard of it.
“I’ve never heard a rumour around the club about Sam Burgess taking drugs,” he said.
Bennett was strong in his stance that nobody within the club knew about the alleged behaviour of Burgess and said the club would reassess once all the facts are put together.
“That is not true. It was not known widely within the club because I’ve been here since ‘18 and I knew nothing about it until I’d been told in the last 24 hours,” Bennett said.
“I have never had a player or any staff member talk to me about it in any shape or form.
“They are allegations. When we get all the facts together and see this at the end of the day, we will take another position on it and make another statement.
“Right now, I’m not going to respond to allegations, I’m sure the club aren’t and the NRL aren’t.
“I will keep my powder dry because you might be wrong.”
Bennett said the allegations won’t rattle the mindset of the playing group ahead of their must-win final on Sunday afternoon.
NSW Police on Saturday confirmed it has set up a strike force to investigate domestic violence and drug allegations against former South Sydney Rabbitohs star Sam Burgess.
ARLC chairman Peter V’landys said the explosive allegations of a Rabbitohs club cover-up of substance abuse, violence and harassment to protect Burgess were “pretty serious”.
The allegations have been vehemently denied by Burgess’s lawyer.
“The allegations are false and constitute an indefensible defamation against my client,” Mark O’Brien told The Australian.
“It is apparent sources of the false allegations are those currently in dispute with my client over various issues.”
WAYNE BENNETT MEDIA CONFERENCE
Journalist: Wayne, what’s your perspective of what has unfolded? These aren’t normal headlines.
Bennett: “The good news is I don’t read the papers, so I’ve got no idea what the headlines are.
“As far as I know the club is handling that side of it, it has no impact on the team whatsoever.
“Sam is not a part of the team in the sense that he’s not playing, and we’ve come this far without him this year.
“You can make out as big a headline as you like, but I can tell you now, it’s not going to impact the playing group here because it’s distant from us — it’s got nothing to do with us.”
Journalist: What about Sam, have you spoken to him?
Bennett: “I’ve spoken to him.’’
Journalist: And how is he?
Bennett: “I don’t want to share any of my conversations with Sam Burgess or anybody else.”
Journalist: Wayne, what about the club’s reputation here. It’s not a good look?
Bennett: “They’re allegations. When you get the facts and we see this at the end of the day, we’ll take another position on it.
“Until then, I’d keep my powder dry because you might be wrong.”
Bennett: “(On the claim Burgess’s alleged substance abuse was known at the club) That is not true, it wasn’t widely known within the club because I’d been here since ‘18 (2018) and I knew nothing about (alleged drug issue) until I was told in the last 24 hours.
“I’ve never had a player or any staff member (come to me), since I’ve been here talking to you about it, in any shape or form.
Journalist: Have you had any staff members taken away from you from in the bubble, particularly when there’s allegations around the team doctor?
Bennett: “The team doctor is one of the most honest people that I have met and worked with.
“He’s been here for 25 years and anyone that knows the team doctor, knows his ethics and he does a great job here.
“I wouldn’t be jumping the gun on what the club doctor has or hasn’t done.
“He’ll be with the team tomorrow (Sunday) — he wasn’t with the team this morning because he doesn’t come on Saturday mornings — and there’s no reason why he shouldn’t be (at today’s game).’’
Journalist: Wayne, what was your opinion of Sam Burgess prior to these allegations and has that (view) changed now?
Bennett: “I’m not going to discuss my relationship with Sam, we know where we stand with each other.”
Journalist: Will it affect the team at all, now that he’s not in his (coaching) role this weekend?
Bennett: “Not in any shape, form or manner.
“You’ve got to understand, as much as it will excite you to think it will affect us, I can tell you categorically it has not affected us.”
Journalist: Did he (Burgess) have that big of a role — given it won’t affect you guys, now he’s not there?
Bennett: “No, his role wasn’t that big.
“He came in halfway through the season, Sam is an important part around us, he’s a great bloke, but the bottom line is, it’s not a big impact on us.
Journalist: Have you ever known Sam Burgess to have a drug problem?
Bennett: “It’s the first I’ve ever known about him (Burgess allegedly) taking drugs. I’ve never heard a rumour or a whisper about Sam Burgess and drugs.’’
Bennett: “Look, just listen to what I’m saying will you.
“I don’t know of any allegations against Sam Burgess until the last 24-48 hours. I’ve never been privy to any conversation to him or anybody.
“I don’t know what the club’s position is, I don’t know what text messages they may have got, or emails from somebody, it’s never been discussed.
“It hasn’t been an issue, it’s never been brought up with me, so you’re talking to the wrong guy here if you’re trying to get information.
Journalist: How are you the wrong guy Wayne, you’re the head coach?
Bennett: “I have a view on a whole lot of things, but I don’t want to express them today at a press interview.
“My major consideration is tomorrow’s game, but nobody wants to talk about that, so we might wind this conversation up.”