The future of Wayne Bennett has been one of the biggest stories of the rugby league season.
The Brisbane coach is off contract at the end of 2019 and speculation is rife that the club are looking to take the club in a different direction from 2020.
This comes as a surprise to many, as Bennett is largely responsible for the Broncos’ resounding success over their 30-year history.
The club actively targeted premiership-winning coaches Paul Green from North Queensland and Bennett’s former protégé, Craig Bellamy from Melbourne.
Both Green and Bellamy publicly expressed their interest in the job, but unfortunately for Brisbane, their current contracts expire at the end of this season, meaning they’d have to sit out of the 2019 season entirely – unless Bennett voluntarily stepped down, which he emphatically rejected. Therefore Green and Bellamy re-signed for their respective clubs.
It should be noted that Bennett claimed it was he who suggested the Broncos should target Bellamy, which proves he knows his tenure at Red Hill is almost over.
This leaves the super coach without a club for 2020, as he has expressed his desire to continue coaching, despite being 68 years of age.
A career spanning more than 30 years, over 800 first-grade games in charge of Canberra, Brisbane, St George Illawarra and Newcastle, Bennett has won seven premierships from eight grand finals. He has coached 21 State of Origins for Queensland and 27 internationals for Australia and England.Embed from Getty Images
Throw in three games as Queensland coach in Super League’s Tri-Series in 1997, plus five games as coach of the NRL All Stars, countless individual awards and an induction into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, and he’s arguably the greatest rugby league coach of all-time.
The only question left to ask a coach who’s achieved everything is: what’s next?
The easy option would be for Bennett to find a club with a star-studded roster and collect another premiership, but it would be in his best interest, and in the best interest of the game as a whole, if he put his talents and experience to good use and rebuilt a struggling club.
And he need not look any further than an hour down the M1, and take the reins of the Gold Coast Titans.
The Titans have had a tumultuous last few years both on and off the field, however things looked promising in 2016, with the club qualifying for the finals for just the third time since their inception in 2007, while the recruitment of halfback Ash Taylor, who went on to win the Dally M Rookie of the Year, and a roster overhaul had put the club in a healthy position.
Unfortunately, the Titans suffered a destabilising 2017 season, largely due to the signing of former Eel and NFL star Jarryd Hayne, which led to rumours of in-fighting between players and then-coach, Neil Henry.
Henry was subsequently sacked and rookie coach Garth Brennan was signed, while Hayne returned to Parramatta.
Brennan signed a three-year deal with the Titans, until the end of 2020, however the third year of his contract is contingent on results, meaning the board can release Brennan at the end of 2019 if he fails to live up to expectations.
That leaves the door wide open for Bennett to take over in 2020. Although he’d demand top dollar compared to what Brennan is on, Titans owners Darryl Kelly and Rebecca Frizelle could afford it.
The sky’s the limit on what a Bennett-Titans union could achieve.
The aspect of coaching that Bennett cherishes most is being a mentor to young players, both on and off the field. The Titans would benefit greatly from his wealth of experience and leadership, especially the likes of Ash Taylor, Jai Arrow and AJ Brimson, whom the club could base itself around for years to come.
The goal wouldn’t necessarily be to deliver a premiership, but to help a group of young players reach their full potential, establish a winning culture, and set-up the club for long-term success.
Such an achievement on the Gold Coast, a city that’s suffered so many failures trying to establish a successful rugby league club over the past 30 years, would truly cap off Bennett’s amazing legacy and cement his status as not only one of the greatest coaches of all time, but one of the most influential mentors in the history of Australian sport.