NRL coaching great Wayne Bennett has declared himself a “free agent” who is “open to all offers” from the end of next year onwards.
For the second time in his decorated career, Bennett was charged with the job of leading an expansion club in its infancy when he was given the keys to the Dolphins ahead of the 2023 season, having already done it with Brisbane in 1988.
He led the Redcliffe club to nine wins in its first year, finishing 14th on the NRL ladder and, at one stage of the season, looking like a finals contender.
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But just a year in, it seems the Dolphins are already in a fight to keep Bennett on their books.
The 73-year-old master coach, who is currently leading his seventh NRL club, hinted at putting his hand up to help out with the NRL’s 18th franchise which, with the backing of Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, looks set to land in Papua New Guinea.
“At the end of 2024, I’m a free agent, so I’m open to all offers,” Bennett told News Corp.
“I’m committed to the Dolphins next year, but I will be out of a job after that, so I’m going to be unemployed.
“I love coaching and I have great belief in Peter V’landys and what he is doing as ARL Commission chairman with expansion.
“I will certainly consider anything I can do to remain in the game moving forward.”
The Dolphins won’t want to lose him that easily though, and would likely fight to have him remain in Redcliffe.
With the AFL set to hand its 19th license to Tasmania in the next four to five years, it is all but certain to look to grow to 20, given the problems an uneven number of teams causes.
Bennett says the NRL needs to keep that in mind when considering its own expansion.
“I wouldn’t be opposed to helping a new franchise, but it would be great if the NRL said, ‘We’re having 20 teams and these are the areas we are going to head to and the years they come in’,” he said.
“The western corridor is so important to the game — the NRL has to look at that region.
“How much do you think the AFL would pay if they could buy all the teams and the fans of that region? They would pay more than $100 million. We can’t afford to lose that region to the AFL.
“The only place not shored up in Queensland is that western corridor. It has to be done.
“It keeps the AFL at bay. It is a huge growth corridor and whether the Easts Tigers bid gets up or not, the bottom line is the only place the AFL can go to is that area.”
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