Wayne Bennett

Wayne's Dragons come to town

WARWICK’S son Wayne Bennett will soon be on home turf once more.

The rugby league super-coach is set to visit Warwick on June 18 and he will bring with him a bus-load of St George Illawarra players.

As part of the NRL’s ‘Adopt a Club’ program for flood relief, the team will visit the Rose City to help support the Cowboys club post-floods and hold meet and greets as well as a junior clinic.

St George Illawarra manager Paul Everill visited Warwick yesterday to nut out a plan for the team’s visit.

He told an excited group of Cowboys club members and Southern Downs councillors the New South Wales club was here for the long haul.

“We don’t like doing one-off things – we thought we’d create (a partnership) we can come back to,” Mr Everill said.

“We might come again next year. We have an enormous amount of people behind us and we’ll see what we can do to help.

“But we don’t just want to wave our banner and be off. We want to do something constructive.”

The squad is likely to arrive about midday on Saturday, June 18, where they will head straight to the Cowboys clubhouse at Queen’s Park.

There, players and coaches will conduct a coaching clinic for all junior and possibly senior players.

As well as the current St George Illawarra side, former ‘legends’ players – whispers of whom included Wendell Sailor and Mark Coyne – could also make the trip over the Gap.

Mr Everill said he “was hopeful” to get some legends to Warwick, but said nothing was in concrete.

The Warwick community will be invited to meet the players and cheer on the local teams from the sideline.

There were talks yesterday of hosting an evening function as well to help raise funds for the Cowboys club.

At this stage it is not known whether the entire squad will spend the night in Warwick.

With the visit falling just days after the second State of Origin match on June 15, Mr Everill said some players could return to Sydney on the Saturday evening.

“We have six players on the Blues side and one on the Queensland side,” he said.

“Wayne’s tossing up whether they’ll stay in Warwick or not, but we’re not sure yet. That’s something we’ll look into.”

Suggestions were thrown around yesterday about the order of the day and whether or not to bring forward game times to accommodate more meet-and-greets.

Councillor Neil Meiklejohn said it was fitting to host the visit and clinic at the Cowboys club.

“For this community, the damage (at the club) is identified as the epicentre of flood damage,” Cr Meiklejohn said.

“The concept of having a day down here as the focal point is important.”

Cowboys president Don ‘Ducky’ Browne said the visit would be a major incentive for local players and the wider community.

“Warwick has a connection with St George Illawarra, which has been the case for about 50 years,” Mr Browne said.

“The St George Cup was first played in 1952 and they used to bring a side up from Sydney to play the Warwick and district representative side.”

Mr Browne said he was “really pleased” about the visit of Wayne Bennett and his team.

“We’re excited about what it will do for the morale of the Cowboys club and also for rugby league in general in Warwick,” he said.

“It will be great to welcome the club here and I’d have to give due thanks to Glen Whitton and (Wayne’s brother) Bob Bennett, who have really helped push this along.”

Rugby league fans are urged to head down to the local club tomorrow to cheer on the junior and senior games.

Collegians will play suburbs in the under 8s, under 10s and under 12s from 10.30am. This will be followed by the under 18s at 11am and the reserve side at 1pm.

The main game – Cowboys versus Wattles – will kick off at 3pm.

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