Bennett's shocking reaction stuns club A GESTURE by the Brisbane Broncos to honour long-standing coach Wayne Bennett blew up in directors' faces when the reluctant recipient reacted curtly to their tribute. On the night which celebrated the club's 20th anniversary with a gala ball, Bennett was invited on stage by club managing director Bruno Cullen to receive a life membership award. However Bennett, who had asked not to be honoured on what he felt should be the players' night, took the award and left the stage without so much as a thank you. Bennett's surly response left Cullen clearly gobsmacked in front of a crowd of more than 400, including the club's players, staff and major sponsors. Players and club directors were dumbfounded by Bennett's refusal to address the crowd after departing players Petero Civonicevo, Brad Thorn, Brent Tate, Shaun Berrigan and Dane Carlaw had previously spoken so eloquently and appreciatively of all that Bennett and the club had done for them over the years. This latest incident is likely to lend weight to the growing moves at Red Hill to have Bennett replaced at the helm of the club when his contract expires at the end of 2009. It will do little to help mend the relationship between Cullen and Bennett, once close friends but who have been at odds since the master coach's rumoured move to the Roosters at the end of last year caught the club unawares. Several coaches have already been linked with the job, most notably Melbourne's Craig Bellamy and Canberra's Neil Henry. Bellamy, a former assistant to Bennett, comes off contract at the same time. Henry, who spent several years in North Queensland as an assistant to Graham Murray, has a growing reputation as one of the game's sharpest minds, thanks to his work with the Cowboys and as an assistant to Mal Meninga with the Queensland State of Origin side. Meanwhile, Petero Civoniceva was named the club's player of the year, winning the Paul Morgan Medal. Civoniceva, who will join Penrith in 2008, capped his career at the Broncos with one of his finest seasons. In other developments, property developer John Geaney, a supporter of the Broncos and coach Bennett, last night distanced himself from speculation of a takeover bid for the club. Speculation surfaced that Geaney, who owns 10 per cent of Brisbane through his family company, was ready to join forces with another party with a view to buying out the Broncos. But last night Geaney, who attended the Broncos' awards ceremony at the Brisbane Convention Centre, said he had no ambitions to own the club. "I and my family have had 10 per cent holdings for a couple of years now," Geaney said. "I have not bought any shares in recent years and I have no ambitions to own the Broncos." Geaney is a member of The Thoroughbreds, a group of businessmen pulled together by one of the Broncos' original owners, the late Paul Morgan, to mentor players and help them with their careers post-football. This year, Cullen was forced to defend the role of The Thoroughbreds amid suggestions the group had been involved with players breaching salary cap guidelines. The reports proved unfounded. Cullen confirmed he was aware of rumours of a potential takeover bid but stressed the club's majority owner, News Limited had no plans to sell its 68 per cent share. "I have no idea how far along any possible offer is," Cullen said. "I haven't heard anything other than the rumours. "What I can say is that at our annual general meeting back in May, News made it clear to us that they were not interested in selling the Broncos at any time in the foreseeable future. We are certainly happy to have their support." News Limited spokesman, Greg Baxter, also affirmed the club was not for sale. "We have had a number of approaches over the last six months and our position hasn't changed," Baxter said. "Our stake in the Broncos is not for sale." Unlike most clubs in the NRL, the Broncos turn a profit, having posted significant returns in recent seasons. Cullen estimates the club's value could be as high as $40 million. Geaney is among those sympathetic to Bennett, the only coach in the Broncos' 20-year history. While Geaney speaks glowingly of Bennett, the Brisbane coach has made no secret of his admiration for The Thoroughbreds, a group formed in 1988 soon after the club's inception. Responding to criticism of The Thoroughbreds earlier this year, Bennett used his newspaper column to laud the work they had done with the players. "Because of these relationships and the trust they have built, I sleep a lot easier because I know my players are getting the right advice," Bennett wrote.