Fien urges Dragons to move on from Wayne Bennett era

Wayne Bennett. Picture: DARREN PATEMAN

Wayne Bennett. Picture: DARREN PATEMAN

RUGBY LEAGUE

A premiership hero in 2010, Nathan Fien says the time has come for St George Illawarra to move on from the Wayne Bennett era once and for all.

The Dragons tried to lure the supercoach back to Wollongong four years after winning the NRL title, before the Broncos swooped to secure his return to Brisbane.

As a result, the Dragons considered their options for a month, until they announced club legend Paul McGregor on a three-year coaching deal.

Fien said the club needed to allow McGregor to start afresh after Sunday's season-ending clash with the Knights - Bennett's current club - in Newcastle.

"I think it's good that Mary has got his opportunity," Fien said.

"He's a local boy and he's had a tremendous playing career himself.

"The boys have really responded with some really positive football over the back end of the year and I think the Dragons will go from strength to strength.

"They've got a number of new combinations obviously in their ranks and that's just going to take time to foster.

"I'm looking forward to seeing them after a long pre-season under Mary."

McGregor himself was a casualty of a ruthless Bennett entrance in 2009, when the latter put a broom through the coaching staff and playing list.

Bennett won two minor premierships and made the finals in all three years in Wollongong, including the drought-breaking 2010 crown.

Since his departure in 2011 they haven't cracked the top-eight.

Steve Price coached St George-Illawarra to a ninth and a 14th place before being dumped midway through the current season.

McGregor hasn't completely resurrected the club, yet, but the Dragons have won seven of their last 13 games.

The Dragons travel to Newcastle tomorrow to take on Bennett's Knights at Hunter Stadium.

The club will be out to get one over its former coach as the Knights farewell the man who has been at the club for three seasons.

Dragons premiership winger Jason Nightingale denied the players are using the Bennett factor as motivation ahead of the round 26 clash.

"Most of our teammates have never played under him and they don't know him so there's nothing to prove there," Nightingale said.

"He taught me a lot as a player and I'm sure he's going to continue to teach a lot of other young players how to be better players and better people."

Dragons playmaker Benji Marshall wasn't at the club in 2010 but became involved with Bennett through his representative duties with New Zealand.

Bennett was on the coaching staff when Marshall captained the Kiwis to a World Cup win over Australia in 2008.

Marshall says he will be forever grateful for the advice he received from the Queensland legend.

"I think he was always honest with me, gave me a lot of confidence," he said.

"Coaching is a lot about knowing your players and being able to manage them, and he's probably one of the best in the business at that and he gets the best out of individuals."

Fien, Marshall and Nightingale all backhanded the suggestion Bennett has under-achieved during his time in Newcastle and paid credit to the job he has done with the struggling Knights.

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