Wayne Bennett’s NRL coaching career will turn full circle next season when he returns to the Brisbane Broncos on a three-year deal.
After six seasons of separation, Wayne Bennett and the Brisbane Broncos will be together again.
Bennett is returning to Red Hill after two Broncos board-members worked in the background to usher the master NRL coach back home on a lucrative three-year deal.
Anthony Griffin has paid the price for the secret moves as he will be cut loose at the end of the season – 12 months before the end of his contract.
Griffin accepted his fate with good grace and honour on Monday, refusing to blame the board or Bennett for his demise and declaring he still had the wits, player talent and support to take his sixth-placed side to an unlikely premiership.
“It’s a big, bad world out there – it’s business,” he said.
“Life is full of challenges and this is one of them.”
Ultimately it was the results of the past two seasons (19 wins from 41 matches) which have brought Griffin unstuck at a time Bennett was looking to return to his Queensland-based family.
Although Griffin, only the third head coach in Brisbane’s history, took them to finals series in 2011 and ’12 after replacing Ivan Henjak, his win-rate is less than 50 per cent over the past three years.
Bennett has reportedly been signed to a $4 million deal but he will see out the rest of this season at struggling Newcastle.
The foundation Brisbane coach won six titles in 21 years at the Broncos, missing the finals only three times, before switching to St George Illawarra in late 2008 and taking the Dragons to the 2010 premiership.
Two weeks ago, Bennett announced he would not stay with the Knights next year and was thought to be returning to Wollongong.
But the 64-year-old had been in discussions with senior Broncos directors Tony Joseph and Dennis Watt, who did not believe Griffin could take the club to a title.
A phone call to convince Lachlan Murdoch, the boss of News Corporation who holds a 67 per cent control of Brisbane’s shares, he could take the club back to the top has been pivotal in the agreement.
Chief executive Paul White, an overwhelming supporter of Griffin’s, revealed he was told of the moves on the weekend, and he advised Griffin on Sunday his services weren’t required for 2015.
Although White’s position has been viewed as untenable by some, the CEO was adamant he could work with Bennett, a long-time friend who he failed to lure back to the club in 2011.
A disappointed Griffin admitted he could have “cut and run” but said he’d invested too much in the club and his playing group to waste a “fantastic opportunity”.
“I’d done everything in my power to get the club to this point, it’s in a position where they are going to succeed and for me personally I’m looking forward to the next 10 weeks,” he said.
“We’re as good a chance as anyone if we can stay healthy and keep improving our game at the end of the year.”