Bennett backflips in ‘intriguing’ twist
WAYNE Bennett has reportedly gone cold on his link to Wests Tigers.
The veteran Broncos coach is now strongly considering seeing out the final season of his contract in Brisbane, according to widespread reports.
His latest indication that he has lost interest in replacing Ivan Cleary at the Tigers has huge repercussions for the chaotic NRL coaching landscape.
Sydney journalist Andrew Webster said on Friday, Bennett is now "completely off" a move to the Tigers.
"I've been told overnight that Wayne Bennett has dropped completely off the Tigers," he said.
"To be honest, I don't know if he was ever that keen. I know a lot of people thought the deal was already done. Can you honestly see Wayne Bennett roaming Concord Oval after being in a nice big facility at Red Hill in Brisbane?
"I just couldn't see him going there. I'm not going to say it's not going to happen because the market is so volatile. I reckon the Tigers will go hard now for (Michael) Maguire. Although, he's a man whose demands are quite significant as well."
The reports of Bennett's desire to stay in Brisbane sets up a showdown with the Broncos board of directors, who must now either allow Bennett to see out the final year of his deal as a lame duck that's already been told he has no future beyond the 2019 season - or offer a payout that would allow Bennett to find a new club.
The Broncos are in the process of interviewing for Bennett's successor to take over at the end of next season.
Assistant coach Jason Demetriou was reportedly interviewed by the club this week and is one of four contenders for the job alongside Maguire, South Sydney coach Anthony Seibold and Queensland State of Origin coach Kevin Walters.
Webster said on Friday South Sydney would be prepared to let Seibold leave before the start of the 2019 season, if Brisbane moved to appoint Seibold as Bennett's replacement.
"Then it becomes an interesting one with South Sydney," he said.
"If Bennett does leave and they get Anthony Seibold, I'm told that the Rabbitohs would be more than happy to let him go early.
"They're comfortable with their back-up plans. Who they are, I don't know.
"It's all very intriguing."
Former Rabbitohs assistant coach David Furner, who was last month appointed head coach of Leeds, has a clause in his contract which would allow him to return to coach South Sydney next season, according to Webster.
Brisbane star Josh McGuire earlier this week threw his support behind assistant coach Demetriou when asked if players would support Bennett's right-hand man taking over the top job at the Broncos.
McGuire has worked with Demetriou, Walters and Seibold in separate capacities and believes any of the trio would be ideal to take over from Bennett in either 2019 or 2020.
He has a special level of respect for Demetriou, who joined the Broncos at the end of 2016 after winning Queensland and NSW Cup titles in the two years previous.
"Jason's a tremendous coach and very much capable of being a head coach anywhere," McGuire said.
"He's won everything there is to win in the lower grades and I think he has been unlucky not to get a head gig yet.
"I would love to be under him. I would love to have an opportunity to have him as my NRL coach.
"I've worked with a lot of good football minds and he's up there with the best."
WHERE THE COACHES' CHAIRS COULD STOP
- Des Hasler (Manly) Appears the closest to anyone on the carousel to have his future decided. The two-time premiership-winning mentor looked over the details of an offer from Manly on Monday, but the club's negotiation over Trent Barrett's exit needs to be finalised first.
- Ivan Cleary (Wests Tigers, Penrith) Has remained silent on the matter since vowing to "honour" his contract in August, but Penrith are confident they'll land their man. Contracted with the Wests Tigers until the end of 2020, it's possible the joint venture will grant him an early release if they can land one of Wayne Bennett or Michael Maguire. No announcement is likely soon, with Tigers chief executive Justin Pascoe overseas on a fact-finding trip and both possible replacements on representative duty.
- Wayne Bennett (Brisbane, Wests Tigers) Avoided questions on his NRL future when asked on Tuesday in England, but it's already confirmed he won't be at Brisbane beyond the end of 2019. Bennett has told Broncos players he will be there next year, but an offer that extends his career beyond that from the likes of the Wests Tigers could be hard to turn down. Regardless, he'd still need a release from Brisbane - meaning they'd need a replacement lined up.
-Anthony Seibold (South Sydney, Brisbane) Contracted to Souths for another year but is very much in Brisbane's sights. Seen as a possible successor to Bennett at the end of 2020 if he opts to move back north after a successful rookie season at the Rabbitohs. Put contract talk on the backburner during the season, but if he doesn't make a decision to re-sign, South Sydney would need to make a call on whether to keep him for another 12 months.
- Michael Maguire (Wests Tigers, Brisbane) Maguire has made clear he won't give up the Kiwis job so soon to move back into the NRL, but he is ready to juggle club and representative roles. After claiming he pulled out of the race for Manly, it's now believed Maguire has been interviewed for Brisbane's top job and is a front-runner for the Tigers. The 2014 premiership-winner at Souths also comes with the extra benefit of being available now if needed, handy if either club needs to release their coach.
- Kevin Walters (Brisbane) Believed to be in the race for the Brisbane top job, after three years of coaching Queensland's State of Origin team. It would be a remarkable return given he quit as an assistant after four rounds there this year, but it's long believed he'd eventually be interested in the top job.
- Jason Demetriou (Brisbane) Brisbane assistant who took over the team's attack on the departure of Walters earlier this year. Has won NSW and Queensland Cup titles before joining the Broncos at the end of 2016. Would be an outsider for the job, but is considered one of the up-and-coming coaches in waiting if a position opens elsewhere.
- Cameron Ciraldo (Penrith) Will be Penrith coach next year if they can't secure Ivan Cleary. Regardless, it's anticipated he'll remain on the coaching staff alongside assistant Peter Wallace.
- with AAP