NRL supercoach Wayne Bennett has confirmed that his current relationship with Dale Cage began while he was still living with and married to his wife of more than four decades.
The seven-time premiership coach – and former Father of the Year – opened up about his affair with Ms Cage, 22 years his junior, in his newly released biography The Wolf You Feed by sports journalist Andrew Webster.
Seven years ago, Daily Mail Australia revealed the identity of Bennett’s new lover. The footy icon sent shockwaves through the NRL by confirming reports that his 42-year marriage with wife Trish had ended.
Mr Webster’s book for the first time sheds light on how the relationship with Cage began. Bennett was coaching the Newcastle Knights and mother-of-three Cage was the manager of the practice of long-time club doctor Neil Halpin
The pair met in late 2013 when Bennett stormed into the doctor’s office to inquire about unpaid medical bills just as Cage was about leaving for lunch.
Wayne Bennett (second from left, with Dale Cage) has confirmed that his relationship with partner Dale Cage (left) began in early 2014 while he was still married
Knights boss Nathan Tinkler unwittingly brought them togeter when the club suddenly stopped paying the players’ medical bills in 2013.
Cage had been working for Dr Halpin for 20 years at his practice based in the Knights’ headquarters.
Bennett had gone to confront Halpin’s ‘cranky secretary’ as to why appointments for his injured players were being refused.
‘I’m here to see Dale,’ Bennett told the woman at the front desk.
A terse Cage said: ‘Well, you found her. But you might have to make an appointment because I’m going to lunch.’
A surprised Bennett replied: ‘Oh, you’re Dale. You’re not what I was expecting.’
Cage asked: ‘What were you expecting?’
He replied: ‘Someone who was old and cranky.’
Bennett joined her for lunch and according to Cage, was ‘taken aback by my confidence’.
The medical bills were paid four days later and the pair became ‘best friends’.
‘There was an instant connection,’ Cage told Webster.
Bennett confirms his friendship with Cage blossomed into romance in early 2014.
‘Dale was a distraction to everybody because nobody thought I’d do what I did,’ he recalled
‘But it never stopped me from coaching.’
At the time Bennett was regarded as a family man known to glowingly praise his longstanding wife Trish.
She was the primary carer of their two adult disabled children back in Brisbane while he spent six years coaching 1076km away in Wollongong and later Newcastle, with Trish’s blessing.
‘Trish and the family didn’t want to see me staying at home and not being happy and not being challenged. Like myself, they would naturally prefer me to be at home, but they were happy for me to go (to the Dragons and Newcastle) because they knew it’s what I wanted to do,’ Bennett recalled in 2014.
‘We just got on with life as a family and as a unit we have made it work.’
Dale Cage (pictured) was first linked to NRL supercoach Wayne Bennett in 2016, two years after their relationship began
Wayne Bennett was still with his wife Trish (pictured together at home in 1999) when he and his current partner began their relationship in early 2014
When Bennett left the Knights at the end of 2014 to return home and again coach the Brisbane Broncos, Cage went with him.
Almost two seasons would pass until Bennett was forced to publicly admit to inquiring media that his marriage had ended.
‘We made the 2015 grand final – I was taking her out then. We made the semi-finals the year after. The preliminary final the year after that. The Broncos didn’t like Dale, but they all knew Trish well. I get it,’ Bennett recalled.
‘My players didn’t care. There was one person who put himself in that place of being the judge and jury.
‘There were staff there who had been divorced. I wasn’t Robinson Crusoe. But there’s different rules for Wayne. There always has been. Wayne’s never been in that other place; he’s always been judged differently. That’s OK. He’s handled it.’
Bennett insists others’ judgement of him wasn’t hard to take.
‘Those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. We’re all entitled to make our own decisions, OK?’ he tells Webster in the book.
‘If I made a decision that you think I shouldn’t have made, that’s not your business.
‘You can use your own judgement on this.
‘The journos have absolutely nothing on me. I’m not a punter. I’m not a drinker, I’m not a womaniser who has been in fights, blues, whatever.’
‘But in that moment (when he left Trish), there was a sense that this guy’s human.
‘This guy is human so let’s give it to him now.
‘It was way over the top.
‘The people writing the stories had a s******d in their own closet. That’s the murky world we live in at times and I had to accept it and get on with life.’
Bennett has been with former secretary and mother-of-three Dale Cage (pictured) since 2014
Until their marriage breakdown in 2016, Wayne Bennett attributed his great success as an NRL coach to his wife Trish (pictured with their three children)
Not all of his former players were happy about his new relationship, with at least one siding with Bennett’s wife Trish, who was well-liked at the club.
‘What about this bloke,’ an ex-player told Webster at the time.
‘It’s a disgrace that he’s done this to Trish.’
For many other former players, Bennett’s infidelity remains a taboo topic, with none willing to talk it about on the record with Webster.
Cage adds that while some at the Broncos tried to made her feel welcome, she described the environment at the club as toxic.
‘It was the worst time of my life,’ she said.
‘He liked me to come to matches and functions: I wanted to stay at home and be a hermit.
‘People picked sides and Wayne worked out quickly who his friends were and who wasn’t.’
While Bennett won’t name one person at the Broncos – who he described as acting like ‘judge and jury’ – the finger is often pointed at former long-time friend, then Broncos boss Paul White who sacked Bennett via voicemail two years later in 2018.
White denies he sacked Bennett over his personal life.
‘I’m not the moral police,’ White says in the book. ‘I never made a moral judgement. I thought I was good support (for Wayne). He’s completely misinterpreted that.’
Wayne Bennett’s partner says she was called a ‘homewrecker’ when it was revealed she had begun a relationship with the married rugby league supercoach
It’s reported in the biography that Bennett was ‘as white as a ghost’ when he met with Cage to tell her that his marriage break-up was about to be made public.
The Wolf You Feed: Wayne Bennett – The Man, The Myth, The Mayhem by Andrew Webster is published by Macmillan Australia
On the morning the news broke, former Broncos star turned club trainer Allan Langer prank-called Bennett at 3am asking ‘is Hugh Hefner there?’, referring to the late Playboy publisher.
Two days later after the news broke, Daily Mail Australia revealed that Cage was Bennett’s new love interest and it became the biggest story in Brisbane.
A few days later, Bennett, accompanied by Trish flew to Sydney to attend the private funeral of his longtime mentor, league legend Ron Massey.
Webster writes that some of the mourners suspect the service was kept private to shield Bennett and his estranged wife from public scrutiny.
Cage and Bennett became ‘Instagram official’ in 2017 when Cage posted a photo of herself with Bennett on Cox Plate Day at Moonee Valley in a Ladbrokes marquee.
Another photo taken on the same day shows her arm in arm with Langer, one of the few at the Broncos who welcomed Cage into the fold.
Six years on, Cage is still branded as a ‘homewrecker’ online.
‘I copped a lot of abuse online at the time and it’s still happening,’ she tells Webster.
‘No-one has asked me for my side of the story. It’s been really weird.
‘All this stuff has been printed and said about me and I’m thinking, ‘Why has nobody rung me to fact-check or get my side of the story. Not one person. Maybe they were too scared to call me.’
Trish was also interviewed by Webster for the book but doesn’t discuss her husband’s affair.
Webster writes that when he approached Bennett to organise to speak to his estranged wife t put his head in his hands and choked back tears, admitting he has regrets how the saga played out.
Bennett still regards Trish as his ‘North Star.’
‘She’s a special person,’ Bennett replied.
The Wolf You Feed: Wayne Bennett – The Man, The Myth, The Mayhem by Andrew Webster is published by Macmillan Australia and out on September 12. RRP: $37.