Wayne Bennett and Josh Kerr. Source: QRL www.qrl.com.au

Wayne Bennett has decided to end his Origin coaching career to focus on his final season as the head coach of South Sydney.

Wayne Bennett has relinquished his position as the coach of the Queensland Maroons to focus on the final year of his contract for the South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Bennett, 71, has periodically coached the Maroons since 1986, guiding them to six State of Origin titles, took over the role once again in 2020 following Kevin Walters stepping down following his being named as head coach of the Brisbane Broncos.

Facing down a Blues threepeat, a feat not achieved by NSW since the 2003-2005 era, Bennett coached a squad dubbed ‘the worst Maroons side in history’ to a series victory which went down to game three at Suncorp.

The unusual State of Origin series in 2020, being played out after the 2020 NRL Premiership season, gave the South Sydney coach the ability to occupy the role last season, but Wayne Bennett stepped down with the series returning to its usual schedule this year.

Managing Director of QRL Robert Moore stated that the Maroons understood Bennett’s decision to step back.

“We understand the decision Wayne has made in his last year of his contract with the South Sydney Rabbitohs, as he’s eager to concentrate his efforts on them because they’ve been so close [to an NRL premiership].”

QRL Chairman Bruce Hatcher believes that Bennett still has a passion for the game.

“He said straight away that he’s always ready to help, and people that think he’s lost his enthusiasm don’t know him.”

“But he was very grateful to the Rabbitohs for giving him the opportunity last year and now he wants to focus on 2021 and giving it a big shake this year.”

Bennett’s time at South Sydney will come to a close at the end of the 2021 season with assistant coach Jason Demetriou taking over the role once his contract comes to an end. That won’t stop Bennett from using his final season at the club to chase after a premiership with the side.

What is Wayne Bennett’s South Sydney legacy?

Whilst yet to make a grand final as South Sydney’s coach, Bennett has successfully coached the Rabbitohs to two successive preliminary finals. With an ever-developing team that has featured multiple list changes and big-name injuries. 

Bennett took over head coaching duties at South Sydney following his dismissal from the Broncos, who went on to hire the Rabbitoh’s head coach at the time Anthony Siebold. Agreeing to extend his two year contract to a three year deal, beginning a year early. At the time Bennett expressed how pleased he was to be doing the right thing by the club.

“I’m really pleased it’s all resolved and that I can join this great Club with a free mind, knowing I did the right thing by the fans, staff and players.”

2021 is set to be another strong year for South Sydney, looking to challenge the top 4 again. With Latrell Mitchell returning to the side from a season ending hamstring injury in round 16 of the 2020 season, along with the new signings of experienced players Jai Arrow and Josh Mansour.

Bennett has proven despite the dismissal following the 2018 season from the Brisbane Broncos, that he’s still more than equipped to take over a coaching role at any club regardless of the naysayers who claimed he was too old to continue coaching.

Following the end of his contract with South Sydney, Bennett has indicated he would like to continue coaching at club level. Wouldn’t it be the ideal way to bow out from his South Sydney’s stint with a premiership?

Even without a historic 22nd title for South Sydney and Bennett’s eighth as a head coach of an NRL side, equalling Arthur Halloway’s record which has gone unrivaled since 1948. Another strong season for the club will prove that Bennett continues to get results from the sides he coaches.

There is no doubt that Bennett will be offered a coaching role at another club with availability even if the contract was only on a short term year to year basis.

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