The only contact NRL super coach Wayne Bennett has with his grandchildren is birthday cards after his affair and the breakdown of his marriage tore his once-close family apart, a new book reveals.
The seven-time premiership coach caused shockwaves in 2016 when he confirmed reports that his 42-year marriage to wife Trish had collapsed.
Just days later, Daily Mail Australia revealed the identity of Bennett’s new lover: Dale Cage, mother of three, 22 years his junior, whom he had met three years earlier while coaching at Newcastle Knights.
The new relationship took a devastating toll on Bennett’s relationship with his daughter Beth, who has been married to Queensland league legend Ben Ikin for 20 years.
Beth and Ikin sided with their mother, Trish, who is the primary caregiver for two adult disabled children she had with Bennett.
Beth’s separation from her father made the private family matter public.
Wayne Bennett’s relationship with Dale Cage caused him to become estranged from his daughter
Bennett’s newly published biography The Wolf You Feed, by journalist Andrew Webster sheds new light on his relationship with Cage and his estrangement with Beth, who was interviewed for the book.
At the end of 2018, Bennett signed on as coach for the South Sydney Rabbitohs after being released by the Brisbane Broncos and returned to Sydney with Cage.
He was still suffering from the effects of the breakdown of his marriage and separation from his family two years ago, particularly his four grandchildren.
Rabbitohs football manager Mark Ellison shared an office with Bennett during his time at the club.
Ellison recalled to Webster the day he saw Bennett writing on a birthday card at practice.
“Who’s the card for Coach?” Ellison asked.
Bennett replied, “This is for one of my grandchildren.”
“My daughter doesn’t talk to me anymore, but I still send them a card so they know I care about them.”
It appears that tensions with his daughter have now subsided, as Bennett recently attended his eldest grandson’s 21st birthday.
The book recalls that the grandchildren always called him “Coach” and not “Grandpa” or “Poppy” – a term Bennett insisted on.
Webster also writes that Beth still appears to be “wounded” by her father’s decision to leave her mother for another woman.
Rabbitohs football manager Mark Ellison (pictured in suit, far right) recalled how Bennett sent his grandchildren birthday cards so they knew he still cared about them
The NRL super coach remains estranged from his son-in-law Ben Ikin, who is married to Bennett’s daughter Beth
In 2020 during the pandemic Bennett’s private family feud escalated in public.
His son-in-law, former player-turned-commentator Ikin, accused him of Fox Sports for breaching the NRL code’s strict COVID-19 biosecurity protocols.
Bennett was fined $20,000 after he and Cage saw each other Dine at Sydney’s fine Italian restaurant Grappa.
A few days later, Cage sparked a media storm after she took a swipe at Ikin in a scathing social media post.
“People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones #justsaying.” “The truth will hurt some people. #staytuned #benikin,” she posted on Instagram.
“The self-righteous cry out in court against others to hide the skeletons dancing in their own closets,” she added before switching her account to private.
Ms Cage attempted to play down her Instagram post when contacted by Daily Mail Australia at the time.
“There is no situation,” Ms. Cage said. “I have no comment.”
She refused to reveal whether she regretted the social media spat that struck at the heart of their strained relationship.
Bennett’s daughter Beth (in pink) was the middle of Wayne Bennett’s three children with his wife Trish
NRL super coach Wayne Bennett (right) has become estranged from his once close-knit family over his relationship with Dale Cage
The Wolf You Feed: Wayne Bennett – The Man, The Myth, The Mayhem by Andrew Webster is published by Macmillan Australia
A taciturn Ikin refused to add fuel to the fire when contacted. It is unknown what triggered Cage’s attack on Ikin.
The feud flared up again last December when media reports claimed Bennett had reconciled with his estranged son-in-law Ikin earlier that year.
Cage shared a snippet of the article on Instagram and called it “garbage.”
“Wayne confirmed this morning that this is not true!” she posted on Sunday. “He still doesn’t like him,” she added with a laughing emoji.
While Beth eventually agreed to be interviewed for her father’s biography, Ikin declined, according to Webster.
While Bennett isn’t sure if he and Ikin will make amends, he describes Beth as “talking to myself.”
“Beth is me,” Bennett said.
“I call her and it’s like I’m talking to myself.”
Beth believes her father could not have achieved what he has achieved without the support of her mother, who she described as his “north star”.
“Maybe I can convince you to write a chapter called ‘X Factor,’ crossing out the X and inserting a T (for Trish),” she suggested.
“Without her, he wouldn’t have been able to do what he did, even if he was single.”
“We grounded him. When the pendulum changed and everyone loved him, he came home and let us take him sledding.
“(Mom) took care of the house and made sure everything was in order. “He was able to concentrate completely knowing that he had a beautiful home to return to and that he was able to get started without interruption because his mother made sure everything went well.”
Wayne Bennett (right) still speaks to his ex-wife and the mother of his three Trish (left)
Still not legally divorced, Bennett and Trish spend most of their time talking primarily about the care needs of their firstborn son, Justin, who is wheelchair-bound and suffers from Dravet syndrome, a rare and lifelong form of epilepsy.
“She’s his North Star,” Beth said.
“She still is. Without her, none of this happens.”
When asked if her mother ever spoke badly about Bennett, Beth replies, “Never.”
A notoriously private person, Bennett broke down while talking to Webster about Trish
“She’s a special person,” Bennett says of Trish.
The Wolf You Feed: Wayne Bennett – The Man, The Myth, The Mayhem by Andrew Webster is published by Macmillan Australia and will be released on September 12th. MSRP: $37.