'The fact is, he lied today, not me'
PAUL Kent has lashed Broncos coach Wayne Bennett for calling him a liar as the war of words between the journalist and the supercoach continued on Fox Sports' The Late Show with Matty Johns.
Speaking at the end of a bizarre 24 hours, Kent defended himself for revealing on NRL 360 on Wednesday night that Benji Marshall had been "horrified" by Anthony Milford's attitude to training since arriving in Brisbane for pre-season.
The journalist also penned a right of reply in The Daily Telegraph.
Kent did not directly quote Marshall or reveal how he had heard the anecdote but that didn't stop Bennett from publicly confronting Marshall before teeing off on the veteran columnist at a training ground press conference on Thursday.
"I confronted the player this morning who allegedly made a comment (about Milford), and he never made that comment. The journalist made it up," Bennett said.
"To be quite candid with you, I'm kind of over a lot of things and a lot of issues that are happening right now in our game.
"On the Anthony Milford issue this morning, I needed to talk to that player. I had to make sure that comment hadn't been made or why it was made.
"But the player assured me, and I believe that player, that he never spoke to the journalist and he never gave him that information."
Kent was furious with the blatant insinuation that he had made the whole story up.
"I never said I spoke to Benji, I never quoted Benji, but Wayne manipulated what his statements were today to indicate that I'd made it up," Kent said.
"I haven't made it up. The story's 100 per cent correct.
"He didn't speak to the journalist. I never said Benji said anything, I said Benji was horrified. I never spoke to Benji. That's Wayne manipulating the media ... The story is 100 per cent right. That's what happened with Milford.
"The old Wayne would never have responded to what I said last night. Now he's terribly sensitive to it.
"And it's because of the other stuff going on - that's his business, go for your life there.
"But the fact is, he lied today, not me."
Bennett has gone through some massive life changes over the past 12 months, with his marriage to his long-term wife Trish breaking down and a new relationship under scrutiny in the media.
In recent weeks he has also been accused of having "lost his aura" in part because the values he's always held dear no longer seem to apply.
Kent said even those closest to Bennett had become "confused" by him, arguing that the upheaval in his life had triggered Thursday's bizarre media conference.
"A lot of people are going to sit down and ask why Wayne would be doing this. Why would he start this? Because as we know Wayne's this godlike figure with a god complex," Kent said.
"The point is this: Wayne is going through some upheaval in his life as we all know.
"A few weeks back, he called all the journalists aside at training and said, 'Listen, I know you've got paparazzi around trying to get a photo of me with my new girlfriend. If it continues, I won't talk to you.'
"What's a rugby league journalist going to do about that? We can't do anything. That's not our call in life.
"Anyway, what happens is last night he goes out and has dinner at a restaurant with his new girlfriend, walks outside after it and sees a cameraman.
"It's not from News Limited, I don't know where the cameraman's from, but Wayne goes off deluxe and he calls News this morning and he's now got a media ban in place.
"He won't talk to (News publications) The Daily Telegraph or The Courier-Mail."
Bennett has often in his career had his problems with the media but he's tended to err on the side of ignoring press rather than actively battling it.
Another surprise for Kent was that Bennett had allowed himself to bring one of his players into the eye of a storm by engaging Marshall at training and then speaking about the issue at a press conference.
"I have never ever seen Wayne use up one of his players for his own purposes," Kent said.
"Yet here he is trying to censor the media by plucking out what I said last night, manipulating it to make out I said something I didn't say, and then using Benji Marshall today to say Benji's innocent, Benji said nothing. I never said it.
"But Wayne is changing. A lot of people who have been close to him for a lot of years, they're confused by Wayne now.
"They don't know who Wayne is any more. They want to know where he's going now."