Wayne Bennett waves to the crowd after Queensland’s Game I win. Picture: David Hossack/NRL Photos
Wayne Bennett waves to the crowd after Queensland’s Game I win. Picture: David Hossack/NRL Photos

Bennett could trigger 15-year Maroons rule change

Wayne Bennett could trigger a 15-year rule change and become Queensland's permanent coach if he can pilot the Maroons to one of Origin's most famous series victories.

The Courier-Mail can reveal Queensland Rugby League has not closed the door on Bennett remaining as Maroons coach beyond this year.

Bennett answered an eleventh-hour SOS to take over the Maroons following the appointment of Kevin Walters as Brisbane Broncos head coach in late September.

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Bennett's fourth stint at the helm of Queensland was originally expected to be a one-series cameo given he is still head coach of NRL club South Sydney.

However the QRL will consider giving Bennett the Maroons job permanently if he can conjure an upset series win in State of Origin's 40th anniversary.

Walters was classed as Queensland's "full-time coach" and the Maroons have not had a mentor with NRL ties since Michael Hagan (Newcastle) in 2005.

New Broncos coach Kevin Walters relinquished the Maroons job. Picture: Josh Woning
New Broncos coach Kevin Walters relinquished the Maroons job. Picture: Josh Woning

But the QRL will review the position after this year's series and a Bennett win will give them serious food for thought ahead of 2021.

"The answer is potentially yes," said QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher when asked if Bennett could get the job long-term.

"We have decided on a process. Regardless of the outcome of this series we decided we would go to the market.

"Paul Green (former Cowboys coach) wasn't considered for this series because we didn't have a lot of time and we had Wayne on standby.

"The truth is, if we're successful in this series then clearly we would have to consider Wayne if he is available.

"If Wayne wins this series we would encourage him to read all the parameters and throw his hat in the ring.

"We've got to be fair to everyone else and like everything, if you don't go to market you don't know who you could miss."

Bennett first coached Queensland in 1986-88, oversaw a one-off series in 1998 and then returned in 2001-03 after the Maroons suffered their last 3-0 defeat in 2000.

At 70, the seven-time premiership-winner is in the twilight of his career but proved he still has plenty of tricks by orchestrating a remarkable upset win in Game One at the Adelaide Oval last Wednesday.

Bennett is contracted to coach South Sydney until the end of the 2021 NRL season and has not revealed plans beyond then.

The QRL offered Green the role in 2017 to replace Meninga but the Cowboys blocked the move.

Hatcher said the QRL opted for coaches without NRL ties to prevent accusations of bias while the job had also become quite consuming as Origin's popularity has increased.

"Previously we had decided we would want a non-NRL coaching position because it does create some problems between the NRL clubs and coach of Origin," he said.

 

"Kevin was ideal. We didn't expect to have him for as long as we did because we thought he'd get the Broncos job (in 2019).

"Kevin did a lot of work from December last year, looking at players, having camps, that's all part of the preparation.

"This has been exceptional circumstances. Wayne came to the rescue and we couldn't have got a better coaching staff for this series (with Mal Meninga and Neil Henry as assistants).

"If it fell back into this type of series where it's all over in three consecutive weeks it would be very hard to appoint someone as a full-time Origin coach."

The NRL is yet to decide whether Origin will revert back to its traditional mid-season timeslot next year, but that appears likely following poor Game One television ratings and player injury/burnout concerns.

Queensland selector Darren Lockyer said the scheduling would play a decisive factor in whether Bennett could be retained as head coach.

"It depends on the structure of Origin next year," Lockyer said.

"If we go back to a mid-season series where we suspend the NRL season for a month to play three games of Origin back-to-back, then I think we can give the job to Wayne.

"But if the series returns to its usual format (three games over six weeks), it's a tough ask for a coach to juggle Origin and NRL commitments.

"In saying that, Wayne has an excellent assistant at Souths in Jason Demetriou so 'JD' might be able to step up during the Origin period to allow Wayne to keep working with the Maroons.

"It could give NSW an advantage if our coach is also worrying about club commitments."

Originally published as Bennett could trigger 15-year Maroons rule change



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