Wayne Bennett’s tribute to legendary talent scout as Dolphins link up with Queensland Cup battlers

Dolphins coach Wayne Bennett was thinking about “a pretty special bloke” as he flew to Rockhampton for the announcement of an alliance with the Central Queensland Capras.

That person was Cyril Connell.

Connell, who died in 2009 aged 81, was the Brisbane Broncos chief talent scout for almost 20 years and Bennett credits him with recruiting most of his top players during his time as coach of the National Rugby League club.

Connell hailed from Rockhampton and his heart was never far away from the central Queensland hub but just what Connell meant to Bennett was evident at last week’s press conference at the Rockhampton Leagues Club, held to unveil the new partnership between the Capras and the new NRL club.

Wayne Bennett and Cyril Connell embrace in the dressing room after another Bronco's win.
Wayne Bennett and Cyril Connell enjoy the moment after another Bronco’s win.(Supplied: Brisbane Broncos)

“I thought about him coming up on the plane today actually,” Bennett said when asked about Connell and his passion for Rockhampton.

“I often think about him.

“There was no greater fan of rugby league in Rockhampton than Cyril. He bought me most of the players to the Broncos and he couldn’t go on a journey to Queensland without going through Rockhampton.

“And he’d always find a player to bring back to me. Now some of them didn’t turn out to be good ones but it was Cyril’s way of giving back to Rocky, I have no doubt at all. He was a pretty special bloke.”

Cyril Connell makes a speech at the opening of the Cyril Connell High Performance Centre as Wayne Bennett looks on
Cyril Connell makes a speech at the opening of the Cyril Connell High Performance Centre as Wayne Bennett looks on.(Supplied: Brisbane Broncos)

Bennett said Connell would be delighted to see the Rockhampton-based Capras teaming up with the Dolphins after toughing it out for many years without NRL club support.

“He would love the fact that there would be a tie-up now between an NRL club and the Capras,” Bennett said.

The Capras have had previous links with NRL clubs, but not for some years. The Dolphins alliance is regarded by Capras chief executive Peter White as being vastly superior to previous arrangements.

Connell, a former Australian and Queensland player in the 1950s, was chosen by the Brisbane Broncos founding chairman, Paul Morgan, to be a recruitment officer for the Broncos in 1990.

Morgan had been a student at Brisbane State High School when Connell was the deputy principal.

Karmichael Hunt shakes Cyril Connell's hand in front of a gymnasium building
Brisbane Broncos player Karmichael Hunt with Cyril Connell in 2007.(AAP: Wayne Heming)

Connell had an eye for talent and found many high-quality players who included Shane Webcke, Tonie Carroll, Petero Civoniceva, Darren Lockyer, Wendell Sailor, Lote Tuqiri, Shaun Berrigan, Brent Tate and Karmichael Hunt, all of whom represented Queensland at State of Origin level.

In 2007, the main training facility for the Brisbane Broncos, the Cyril Connell High Performance Centre, was named after him due to his years of service to the club.

The Cyril Connell Fields in Rockhampton are also named after him as is the Cyril Connell Challenge, an under-16 competition administered by the Queensland Rugby League.

A fine player as well as a super talent scout

As a player Connell was a diminutive five eighth/centre and debuted for Rockhampton Brothers in 1947 before he linked with Toowoomba’s Newtown team in 1950 where, under the guidance of legendary coach Duncan Thompson, he was selected to play for Queensland and represented the state 24 times between 1952 and 1957.

Connell played for Australia against New Zealand in 1956 and toured with the 1956-57 Kangaroos and while he didn’t play a Test, he featured in 14 tour matches in England and France.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *