South Sydney have confirmed Wayne Bennett will snub the NRL’s plan to conduct open-air joint press conferences, including questions from fans, at the Magic Round this weekend, threatening to turn the post-match scenes into a farce.
The NRL is keen to maximise fan engagement at Suncorp Stadium this weekend and have changed their plans for post-game press conferences, with CEO Andrew Abdo saying: “It’s vital we continue to think outside the square about new ways to enhance the fan experience.”
South Sydney have confirmed Wayne Bennett has no appetite for joint press conferences at Magic Round.Credit:NRL Photos
Club CEOs received an email last week informing them all coaches and captains would be required to attend joint press conferences in the forecourt of the stadium precinct, in front of fans.
The email, seen by the Herald, also stated fans would be allowed to submit questions, with the best two or three later asked by an MC.
Bennett once famously said of external criticism ‘if you start listening to the fans, it’s not long before you end up over there sitting with them’.
And Souths are the first club to make it known they want nothing to do with the new concept, and that Bennett would not participate.
Benji Marshall of the Rabbitohs looks on after another Storm try against Melbourne last week.Credit:Getty Images
“This has nothing to do with Wayne or being back at Suncorp.
“At the end of the day the coaches and captains have to front the press conferences and the NRL should have explained to them why it was so important for fan engagement.
NRL CEO Andrew Abdo wants to improve the fan experience at Magic Round.Credit:SMH
“If you make a fundamental change like this, talk to the people who are most impacted by it.”
Coaches have been threatened with fines for not taking part in post-match press conferences. It remains to be seen if other coaches will join Bennett and refuse to take part.
Another concept floated for Magic Round was players being interviewed by the TV broadcaster after they had scored a try, which was also met with a lukewarm response from several clubs.
The last thing clubs want is Magic Round to become a three-day circus, especially with two competition points still on the line for all clubs.
Abdo described Magic Round as a “carnival” and “we’ve created an interactive fan zone”.
“We’re really excited to give our fans the opportunity to view a media conference live at our outdoor fan zone, immediately after the match,” Abdo said.
“So many of our fans watch the live-stream of press conferences on our website and this one-off innovation for Magic Round will give them the opportunity to see their heroes and hear their analysis live in person.
“As a game we want to keep bringing our fans closer to our players and clubs. Without fans, we don’t have a game – and this is an opportunity to provide an additional insight to our fans, that they wouldn’t normally have access to.
“Fan engagement is so important and it’s vital we continue to think outside the square about new ways to enhance the fan experience.”
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