‘Could he work with me?’: Bennett to Penrith heats up
PHIL Gould and Wayne Bennett working side by side?
From the outside looking in it may look like a ticking time bomb, but the speculation about Bennett taking on the Penrith coaching role is getting hotter by the hour.
The Panthers refused to rule it out when speaking to media on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after the club unceremoniously dumped Anthony Griffin from the chair, effective immediately.
General manager Gould said he had received 12 official applications for the job in the short time between the Monday announcement and his Tuesday media appearance.
He also revealed the club's board had identified one person as their ideal target for the role.
When the name Bennett was put to him, Gould did his best to laugh the question off.
"Wayne Bennett? That would be fun wouldn't it," Gould said.
"Could he work with me? I don't know.
"I'm not talking about individuals, that's ridiculous.
"I don't know what Wayne is doing with the Broncos at the moment, I don't know what the Broncos are doing either.
"It's got nothing to do with us."
Gould and Bennett are two of the game's biggest personalities and most influential figures.
Penrith chief executive Brian Fletcher believes the pair could work together and be successful.
"I'm sure they could work together - I wouldn't see any reason why they couldn't. From a Wayne Bennett point of view you're not coming to rebuild a side," Fletcher told the Big Sports Breakfast.
Bennett is contracted to coach Brisbane in 2019 but his future is as clear as mud. The Broncos are set to make a call on it when the current season finishes.
Even if they want him to stay, Bennett could walk out on the club he's coached to multiple premierships.
He has repeatedly stated he can continue his NRL coaching career at a rival club if the Broncos do not want to keep him.
Gould himself has claimed a number of times in recent months that he believes Bennett will not be coaching Brisbane in 2019.
Bennett has been employed by NRL clubs in the past with an aim for short-term success, most notably the Dragons - who he took to a premiership in 2010.
Bennett's future at Red Hill looks rocky given he recently turned the heat up on the club's board to make a decision on his 2019 position, and the board fired back by declaring they won't be deciding anything until October.
If Bennett doesn't end up at Penrith, there's a number of options the Panthers could turn to.
Gould would not confirm or deny who any of the 12 applications were from, but said some were from current head coaches.
Manly coach Trent Barrett has been linked to a move back to the Panthers, as has Ivan Cleary, who is currently in the chair at Wests Tigers.
Gould was careful not to give too much away.
"We really haven't made a decision on who is going to coach the side next year," he said.
"We've already had 12 applications come in overnight from people within the game, either assistant coaches and some head coaches from other clubs.
"I think we would be a very popular choice for coaches looking for a strong club with a good roster and great facilities. I don't think we'll have any trouble finding a coach.
"We have a preferred choice at this stage but that's not to say that's the one we'll end up with."
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