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Union tried to poach Bennett

Published: 7:01AM Thursday April 27, 2006 Source: AAP

Rugby union's enthusiasm at cherry-picking rugby league talent hasn't been restricted to star players as it unsuccessfully attempted to poach Wayne Bennett.

The Australian Rugby Union failed in a bid five years ago to lure long-time Brisbane Broncos coach Bennett to the 15-man game to lead the Queensland Reds in the Super 14.

Former ARU high-performance unit manager at the time and current Queensland coach, Jeff Miller, revealed he asked Bennett to apply for the Reds job in late 2000.

The offer came at a time Bennett had just led the Broncos to a fifth premiership and when current Wallabies coach John Connolly's Queensland position was being reviewed.

"At the time Queensland were looking for a coach and we decided to put a call to Wayne, completely left field, to see if he was interested," said Miller.

"He said he was flattered by the offer but said rugby league had been far too good to him and he wouldn't consider it on that basis."

Miller's call came only a year before he successfully led the charge in signing league internationals Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers to rugby.

Sailor's former Broncos teammate Lote Tuqiri then followed for the 2003 season when all three started in the World Cup final against England in Sydney.

The strikes on league stars, which have continued with Wednesday's offer to Mark Gasnier, turned the tables on generations of then-amateur union players being poached by league clubs.

While Bennett is in his 19th season at the Broncos, the Reds' coaching stability since Connolly is in stark contrast.

Former Wallabies coach Eddie Jones will become the fifth in seven years next month when he takes over from Miller, who was sacked before the start of the Super 14 season.

Both Miller and Bennett enjoyed a panel discussion together with Lions coach Leigh Matthews at Brisbane's annual Three Codes Luncheon, raising money for the Cyclone Larry relief effort.Bennett and Matthews both praised Miller for the dignified manner he had handled his axing.

"I thought it was rugby union that would be the only code to do that to themselves, and then along came Brian Smith and Michael Hagan," he said, referring to the looming swap of NRL coaches at Parramatta and Newcastle.

Matthews revealed he was unlikely to make a return to the media after his coaching career ends because he found media work "boring".

"You want the emotional rollercoaster ... that's what we love about our sport," he said.

"In the media you know what your weekend and your emotions are going to be."

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