The Dragons are looking increasingly like super-coach Wayne Bennett’s new home next year after he announced he is leaving Newcastle.
St George Illawarra is shaping as the only likely destination for “out of work” super coach Wayne Bennett.
Bennett shocked Newcastle fans, staff and players last week in announcing he would leave the club at the end of this NRL season after three seasons in charge, with a number of clubs including the Dragons, North Queensland, Gold Coast, Brisbane and the Warriors linked to the seven-time premiership winner.
But on Tuesday Cowboys board member and Bennett’s son-in-law Ben Ikin ruled out the possibility of the club making an approach to the former Queensland and Australian mentor, saying Paul Green was seen as long-term option in Townsville.
Ikin said Bennett had timed his decision well to best allow a bidding war for his services, but the Dragons, who are reportedly readying to offer a three-year $3 million deal to coach who led them to the 2010 premiership the joint venture, could be the veteran’s only option.
The cash-strapped Titans would have to pay embattled John Cartwright out of the final two years of his contract and pay Bennett’s salary, which seems unlikely.
The Broncos are another possibility but club legend Gordon Tallis, who has strong links to the Brisbane board including former teammate Darren Lockyer, says the prevailing thought at Red Hill is that Anthony Griffin has them on the right track and they need to emerge out of Bennett’s lengthy six premierships shadow.
The Warriors made a big-money play to Craig Bellamy before he recommitted to Melbourne and are another possibility but Andrew McFadden has turned around the Auckland-based side since Matthew Elliott’s sacking in March.
Struggling Cronulla have also been mentioned as a possibility but suspended coach Shane Flanagan recently re-signed for three more years.
Bennett, who now describes himself as “out of work”, said he “sacked himself” from the Knights after a disastrous season which started with the pre-season jailing of Russell Packer for assault.
The club remains a slim chance of making this year’s finals after falling one game short of the grand final last year.
“(I’m) moving on,” Bennett told Triple B.
“… I’ve been embarrassed up there the way we’ve played. I’ve got to take responsibility for that, I’m the coach.”
Ikin was adamant Bennett would not end up in Townsville.
“Wayne Bennett’s name has not been mentioned. It will not be mentioned,” he told 2KY’s Big Sports Breakfast on Tuesday.
“It hasn’t been discussed.
“He is not an option, he will not be an option. We are very happy with the bloke we employed at the end of last year and we see a bright future for Paul Green up there in the north.”
WHERE BENNETT MAY END UP COACHING IN 2015?
ST GEORGE ILLAWARRA DRAGONS – Yes. A firm favourite to land the super coach. Bennett retains close ties to the club he led to premiership glory in 2010.
NORTH QUEENSLAND – No. Club board member and Bennett’s son-in-law Ben Ikin has ruled out an approach.
WARRIORS – Maybe. Made a big money-play, rumoured to be around $1 million a year, for Melbourne’s Craig Bellamy and could do so again.
BRISBANE – Unlikely. Opinion appears divided over whether Bennett’s return would be a good thing or a bad thing and current coach Anthony Griffin retains support at Red Hill.
GOLD COAST – Unlikely. Things desperately need to change at the Titans but coach John Cartwright still has two years to run on his deal, which would mean an expensive payout.
CRONULLA – Unlikely. Suspended coach Shane Flanagan recently re-signed for three more years.