The Dragons are frantically preparing for life without Wayne Bennett, having held a secret meeting with Origin mastercoach Phil Gould last month.
In a clear sign the defending premiers fear this will be Bennett’s last season at the club, it is understood desperate Dragons chief executive Peter Doust met Gould before flying out for the World Club Challenge against Wigan in England in February.
They discussed the possibility of Gould becoming a coaching director should Bennett snap up a lucrative deal with Newcastle, Souths or return home to his former club Brisbane Broncos.
Any move would likely be contingent on whether Channel 9 – for which Gould is an expert caller – retained the broadcast rights from 2013.
If not, it would free up more time for Gould to take up the coaching director’s role with assistant coach Steve Price likely to remain as coach.
Of course, the Dragons’ first preference is for Bennett to extend his contract beyond this season.
It is believed they have tabled a lucrative offer well above $1 million a season – although billionaire mining magnate Nathan Tinkler could trump that if he is allowed to buy the Newcastle Knights.
There were rumours yesterday that Tinkler was prepared to pay as much $1.5 million a season to sign Bennett.
South Sydney Rabbitohs management has been resigned for some time to the fact that Bennett will not be joining them – despite widespread speculation late last year that he had already signed. Neither Gould nor Doust returned calls or text messages last night.