Wayne Bennett has been the talk of the coaching realm of late, linked to the Warriors, Canterbury and St. George Illawarra in the past fortnight.
But there’s one job that hasn’t been mentioned, one the super coach could jump at.
Bennett was sacked by Brisbane and joined South Sydney in December 2018, signing a three-year contract tying him to Redfern until the end of 2021.
The club announced back in February that Bennett’s role as head coach would end at the end of his contract, with assistant Jason Demetriou taking the reigns from 2022 onwards, with Bennett declaring he isn’t finished as a head coach.
So where does it leave him?
The club’s mentioned so far – St. George Illawarra, Canterbury and New Zealand – all have coaches under pressure and languish low the ladder, leaving them obvious candidates.
However, at 70 years of age, there’s a good chance Bennett’s next contract will be his last, and will be legacy focused. He isn’t joining a club to help them rebuild, he wants an eighth premiership. And with Jai Arrow arriving in 2021 he may snag one in Redfern, but regardless he won’t join a club with an average roster.
But despite cellar-dwelling clubs chasing the master coach’s signature, there’s one job perfect for Wayne that is yet to be mentioned.
Queensland Rugby League extended Kevin Walters’ contract as the Maroon’s head coach until the end of 2021 on Sunday night, lining up with the end of Bennett’s South Sydney deal. And with former Bunnies coach Anthony Seibold under massive pressure in Brisbane, it’s hard to see ‘Seibs’ surviving until the end of his five-year deal.
Bennett hasn’t coached the Maroons since the 2003 series, but could prove the fairytale finish to the coaching career of one of the best we’ve seen. Especially with the dominant era the Blues are entering, could Bennett orchestrate another Alfie Langer-ish return from rep retirement with Cameron Smith?
The planets are aligning for Wayne to return to the Queensland fold, and with a cut down in games played it allows Wayne to pick up other roles, with Sam Burgess saying he would be a ‘great general manager at a club, he’s a man who knows how to build a roster’.
There’s no secret that Bennett’s greatest strength is his personal relationships with his players and making sure they know they’re valued. And while he’ll only spend a matter of weeks with the Origin players in training/games, when you take into account Emerging Player camps and behind-the-scenes meetings, he’ll build the relationships he could at club level.
While no discussions we know have gone ahead, especially just days after the QRL announced Walters’ retention, things continue to fall in place for Bennett’s grand Maroon finale. It’s one to keep an eye on.