Wayne Bennett has assured veteran Brisbane forward Sam Thaiday he will be in his top 17 for the rest of the season in the wake of a column by former Broncos star Chris Walker on the QRL website which called for him to retire immediately.
Walker said the 32-year-old club legend should retire on his own terms and "take a leaf from Corey Parker's book and call it a day sooner, rather than later, to preserve his legacy".
An honest Thaiday told NRL.com after the 26-14 loss to the Gold Coast Titans that he'd had a poor game. "I didn't do my job," he said.
Bennett, speaking to reporters after Brisbane training on Friday, confirmed Thaiday would be in his team for the rest of the year and would not be dropped to the Intrust Super Cup.
"Nothing is going to change this season for Sam," Bennett said.
"He will be in the NRL squad, in the 17, week after week regardless of how we are playing.
"He has been a wonderful servant for this club. We didn't keep him an extra year to put him down playing with Norths or somewhere else. It is not going to happen.
"Sam has a lot to offer this team. He just got a little bit lost the other night but he'll get it right and I am confident he'll get it right."
Pangai Jnr and Oates confirmed starters
Bennett was told what Walker had written and said: "Chris should have retired a long time before he did as well, so he is speaking from experience."
That comment had reporters in stitches and Bennett maintained a wry grin on his face when asked if Thaiday had a confidence problem.
"Sam doesn't have a confidence problem. He has an over-confidence problem," he chuckled.
Bennett had a chat with Thaiday in the off-season about where he stood in 2018.
"The thing we've done really well at this club, and I think I've done really well as a coach here, is that we've never disrespected our players who have given great service to us," he said.
"That guy has played 16 years here and has put his body on the line every time he's ever played. We can get him through this season doing a job for the NRL team without putting him somewhere else."
Bennett confirmed Tevita Pangai jnr had recovered from a tear to the sheath surrounding his hamstring and would face the Knights in Newcastle on Saturday night with Tom Opacic reverting to the reserves.
Versatile forward Jaydn Su'A will be the bench utility where he can cover centre.
When asked if assistant coach Kevin Walters' exit to focus on his Queensland Maroons head coaching role had surprised him, Bennett backed the decision.
"I'm not disappointed. I'm happy for him. It was his choice and his decision. We'd had the discussion the week before about our role here and I thought … we'd get on with that. So I was a little bit surprised."
Bennett said the suggestion he had fallen out with Walters was "media talk".
"We’ve been very candid and very upfront about what happened and there are no skeletons in the closet," he said.
When Bennett coached the Maroons he was also at the Broncos helm for five of seven series but he said "everyone is different" with what they could handle.
"[Walters] was on the plane Monday to Melbourne, then you’ve got to get back for Tuesday training and that interferes with your preparation," he said.
"When I was coaching Origin we weren't flying to Melbourne to promote games."
Bennett confirmed assistant coach Jason Demetriou would return to looking after the Broncos' attack following Walters' departure.
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