“He said, ‘I realise that’.”
The moment Bennett laid eyes on Inglis on a warm Sydney autumn morning, he knew he was in a good place.
“I was happy to turn up here this morning and he was here and smiling and happy – he hasn’t been like that for a couple of months,” Bennett said.
When Inglis reported for day one of pre-season training at the start of January, Bennett knew the superstar could be in trouble.
But as the supercoach said, ”they have to come to that place themselves, and you can’t force him to retire because you don’t want that on your conscience the rest of your life”.
So many questions remain about Inglis and how his sudden departure will impact on Souths’ salary cap – and how much of his outstanding $1.5 million they can use to chase another player.
James Roberts has been heavily linked to a return to Souths but Bennett, who coached the centre at Brisbane, said: “I’ve had no conversations with anybody about James Roberts or any other player at this point in time. We need to see what’s available out there. We want quality, not quantity, and we’ll be patient.”
Souths have entertained signing Broncos youngster Gehamat Shibasaki as a short-term and cheap fix to their outside-back stocks.
Bennett also took a swipe at rival clubs who remained sceptical about any future arrangement Souths have with Inglis and what is included in the cap.
He even went as far to say he was prepared for Souths to carry Inglis’ entire ‘freight’ in the cap the next 18 months – denying them any chance to chase a replacement – and his only care the 32-year-old’s welfare.
“We haven’t discussed salary cap [issues], I haven’t discussed it with Greg and I haven’t discussed it with [general manager of football] Shane Richardson,” Bennett said.
“It wasn’t the issue. The issue was Greg’s welfare and what was best for Greg. We’ll fix all the rest of it up and we’ll make it work.
“Was I going to make Greg Inglis run around and do something he didn’t want to do for 18 months? No.
“I can’t understand [the scepticism]. We treat our great players poorly sometimes. I’ve been at enough clubs and seen enough guys get pensioned out and looked after once they’ve finished their playing careers.
“There should be more dispensation for these sorts of things so they can exit the game in a manner that is proper to what they have given the game.
“Why wouldn’t we look after them? Why would we think we’re ripping someone off because it’s a good idea and should be done.”
The Herald approached Inglis senior for a comment, only for him to say he wasn’t keen on interviews. “Now you see where I get it from,” a smiling Inglis said.
Christian covers rugby league for The Sydney Morning Herald.