Wayne Bennett has relinquished his position as Queensland coach to focus on winning a premiership in his last season at the helm of the Rabbitohs, reports NRL.com.
After jumping back into the Maroons coaching role at short notice last year following Kevin Walters’ appointment as Broncos coach, Bennett once again became a saviour for his state in leading Queensland to one of the most unlikely series victories in State of Origin history.
That left the master coach, now 71, with a huge decision to make, with the Queensland Rugby League leaning towards moving back to the old part-time coach model, allowing Bennett to lead both the Rabbitohs and Queensland.
However it now unlikely that they’ll pursue that model with QRL chairman Bruce Hatcher confirming to NRL.com that Bennett had walked away.
“A week or so after Origin Wayne indicated that he wanted to focus on the Rabbitohs,” Hatcher said.
“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 decision to relinquish the role will force the QRL board to go through a thorough process to find a more permanent solution.
Queensland icon Mal Meninga joined Bennett on the coaching staff last year but he may not be available to return to the top job due to his commitments to the Kangaroos, given Test matches are back on the schedule in 2021 following a break last year.
Bennett is one of the few NRL coaches who wields enough power over his club to be given the green light to juggle his day job in clubland with an intensive six-week burst in an Origin tracksuit.
That fact will likely force the QRL to move away from the 16 NRL coaches as it shapes its field of candidates for the Queensland job.
Out-of-work premiership coach Paul Green would have to be considered the early favourite to be be appointed Maroons coach after he was overlooked last year when Bennett threw his hat into the ring.
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QRL director Rob Moore confirmed to NRL.com that the search for a new coach would start this month. Hatcher said the QRL would like to make an appointment by February.
“We’ll have the same process as we did for Wayne’s appointment for the new one, with a committee of three [QRL] directors going through that process,” Moore told NRL.com.
While Green is the most obvious candidate to take the role, Neil Henry may also be considered after he played an important part in last year’s series win as part of Bennett’s coaching staff