Wayne Bennett during his time as South Sydney coach.
Bennett took the Rabbitohs to the grand final in 2021. Image by Lukas Coch/AAP PHOTOS
  • rugby league

Bennett confirms Souths move, open to coaching past 80

Joel Gould May 18, 2024

Wayne Bennett will coach South Sydney from 2025 and keep his options open beyond that with an expansion team as he prepares for a “secret meeting” with Rabbitohs CEO Blake Solly.

The 74-year-old Dolphins coach is tipped to agree to a three-year deal with the Rabbitohs but his coaching career may go longer with an expansion franchise.

“Twenty years, you reckon? Fit Papua New Guinea in and a couple of other expansion teams in between,” Bennett said.

“I could be in Perth. I didn’t know I wanted to continue to coach until I came back (to the Dolphins) and did the two years here. I will do my time at Souths and if I want to coach again, I won’t have someone tell me I can’t. I will make the decision myself.”

Bennett confirmed he would meet with Solly on Monday to discuss the finer details of a deal to return to the club he coached from 2019-2021. 

Wayne Bennett
 Wayne Bennett (right) chats with Cody Walker during his first stint coaching South Sydney. Image by Dean Lewins/AAP PHOTOS 

“If he’s nice to me I will (sign) … yeah,” he grinned. 

The coach confirmed “absolutely” it would be a secret meeting, but not in a cafe. 

“You reckon I could have a secret meeting in a cafe? You don’t think someone could get a photo of that and put me front page?” 

Bennett ruled out bringing Solly to his farm west of Brisbane. 

“Nobody goes to the farm. Nobody. I’ve only let one journo up there.” 

Bennett will do the negotiating on his contract himself, without a third party. 

“They are not that hard. Just work out what you want, ask for it and go from there,” he said. 

“I am keen to get it done so we can all move on. By the end of next week I have no doubt we will have a final decision.”

ARL Commission chairman Peter V’landys said on Friday that Bennett was still the priority to coach an expansion team after he finishes at the Rabbitohs, a development which would have him coaching beyond 80.

“Thanks for thinking ahead for me,” Bennett said.

“I’ll take a look at my birth certificate.”

The NRL has a plan to build a compound for players and their families to live in Port Moresby if a PNG side is introduced to the competition.

“Let’s see if they make a decision if PNG is coming into the comp and then we will start worrying about compounds and who is coaching them,” Bennett said when asked if he would live in a compound.

“There is a lot of push from the (Federal) government about an 18th team being in PNG. That is the reality. 

“It may be difficult to do, but from a government point of view they think the relationship with Papua New Guinea is important. That is where the 18th team will come from.”

Bennett said Perth deserved the praise their bid had been receiving from V’Landys.

“So it should,” Bennett said.

“There’s no problems with Western Australia. We were there before (with the Western Reds) and should never have left in 1998.

“I see the game growing all the time. I don’t think 18 teams is going to be the end of it, or 20 teams.

“When I was a little boy there were six million people (in Australia) when we had the Olympics in 1956. We are close to 30 million now. We will have to keep expanding.”